Croke Park chief explains Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt issue will take time to clear

Croke Park chief explains Páirc Uí Chaoimh debt issue will take time to clear
Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

IT will take at least 10 years for the debt from the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh to be cleared.

Croke Park have now taken over the management of the Cork GAA stadium in a bid to sort the massive over-run, with the build coming in at €110m, almost €25m higher than the €86m total estimated following the completion of works. Tom Grealis is currently seconded as temporary manager on Leeside and there is a budget together for next year and a strategic plan for the next three years.

Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna revealed to the Irish Examiner that “we need to bring the synergies from Croke Park to bear here, but this is a 10- to 15-year set-up. It’s not going to be solved in a hurry.”

“At least (a decade). The debt is not €110m remember, that’s the final cost right now — early on in the process €70m or €75m was mooted as a cost — but this is not a three-year project.

“There are a lot of positives there. We’re looking at premium tickets, the hospitality business, and there’s huge potential there.”

McKenna stated in an interview with Michael Moynihan that the Association needs to take a close look at why the costs spiralled and how to solve the problem.

“Costs certainly escalated, and that’s problem A. But the building is there, it looks well, people’s experience of it is positive.

“It would have been far worse if the work had stopped halfway through and we’d have been left without one thing or another. It’s been finished to a very high standard, but the cost is way in excess of what was expected.”

Among the issues that must to tackled going ahead is the pitch, with the surface likely to be replaced next winter after “compaction problems” due to the cranes used when the stadium was being revamped.

“The other side is running it as a business, which is a speciality. Stadia as we know them now.

“Croke Park was probably the first in the world to go beyond that and we have a very good team who work in that space.

“We’d be mad not to use their experience with hospitality, bars, all of that (in Cork).”

In time, McKenna is hopeful the Páirc can find its feet in the same manner Croker has.

“It’s a positive set-up and we pay a dividend every year — but it wasn’t always like that. The first year of operations Croke Park lost €2m, the bars lost €800,000 — it was a basket case, so we’re not painting ourselves as angels here. We learned our trade the hard way.”

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