Connacht Rugby announces historic redevelopment plans for the Sportsground

08 October 2018

Connacht Rugby announces historic redevelopment plans for the Sportsground
Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce historic redevelopment plans for the Sportsground Stadium.


The project will deliver a modern, fit for purpose rugby stadium in addition to a new high-performance training centre for Connacht Rugby while also retaining existing greyhound racing facilities.


The redevelopment plan has been made possible following an arrangement reached between the Irish Greyhound Board and the freehold owners of the Sportsground, the Galway Agricultural and Sports Society, with respect to a shared vision for the future of the Sportsground.


The announcement comes on the back of a rigorous process to identify the optimum location, composition and design of the proposed new redevelopment in addition to an independent cost benefit analysis.


The development will cost in the region of €30m and will have a capacity of 12,000 spectators. It is intended that the development will be funded through a combination of public funds, most notably through the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund, and private funding.


The arrangement with the Irish Greyhound Board will ensure that rugby fixtures and greyhound racing events will continue to be staged at the venue. The multi-use facility will also be made available for the hosting of other sporting fixtures and events where such demand arises.


The strategic benefits of the project to the entire region are also closely aligned with the Government’s National Planning Framework, Project Ireland 2040 as well as the recently launched National Sports Policy, all of which highlight the need for a regional spread of capital investment throughout the country.



Making the announcement, CEO of Connacht Rugby, Willie Ruane said: “A key pillar of the vision for Connacht Rugby, Grassroots to Green Shirts, is to deliver facilities that match our ambition. The arrangement we have reached with the IGB, paves the way for the delivery of modern fit for purpose facilities to sustain the Sportsground as the home of club and professional rugby in the province. The plans for the stadium redevelopment also include a high-performance training centre to provide both our existing professional players as well as our emerging talent access to appropriate facilities to enable them to fulfil their potential and go on to perform at the highest level.

We have already been in contact with local residents on our plans and will be hosting a full public consultation in the coming weeks. In tandem with the planning process we will be submitting an application under the Government’s Large-Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund. Independent economic research carried out in 2016, found that Connacht Rugby contributes €34.4 million to the regional economy. The delivery of this project will increase that contribution and provide a beacon for regional development in the West of Ireland. Our vision is to ensure that the province has a stadium which future generations of sports stars, supporters and all the people of the West of Ireland can be immensely proud of.”


Commenting on the announcement, CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board, Ger Dollard said: “The proposed development by Connacht Rugby will deliver state of the art facilities in the Sportsground which will greatly enhance the experience of our customers and also benefit dog owners and breeders. The schedule of greyhound racing activity will be maintained within the new development. The ambition of the IGB continues to be the delivery of a commercially viable, well-regulated greyhound and breeding industry as well as a customer-centred, exciting and value-led entertainment experience. The proposed development by Connacht Rugby will make a significant contribution to that overall objective.”


Endorsing the development plans, Anthony Ryan President of the Galway Agricultural and Sports Society added: “The Galway Agricultural and Sports Society is an organisation entrusted with the responsibility of making the Sportsground facilities available to sporting organisations on a long-term basis. The arrangement between Connacht Rugby and the IGB, allows for the delivery of improved facilities for both organisations. The policy of making the facility available to a range of sporting bodies and community groups is perfectly aligned with our core purpose. We welcome the spirit of co-operation between the organisations which enables the project to proceed.”


The IRFU are also fully supportive of the redevelopment plans. Commenting on the announcement, CEO of the IRFU Phillip Browne said: “The Sportsground has been the home of rugby in Connacht since 1927 and it is fitting that as the team develops the ground does too. The province has made huge progress on and off the field, and the development of these facilities will sustain Connacht Rugby into the future. A high-performance training centre and a modern stadium are important for the future of rugby in the West of Ireland and the IRFU is fully supportive of, and looks forward to, the development of this exciting project.”


Click here to download video footage of the existing Sportsground stadium.


Background to the project


  • One of the key pillars of the Connacht Rugby vision Grassroots to Green Shirts is to deliver “facilities that match our ambition”.


  • It was based off this pillar that aStrategic Facilities Working Group was established to deliver on Connacht Rugby’s long-term needs regarding fit for purpose playing and training facilities.


  • The initial work of this group involved identifying sites in the greater Galway City area that could potentially act as a suitable home for a fit for purpose stadium.


  • As part of the shortlisting process drawings were prepared for three separate sites. After a detailed process the Sportsground has now emerged as the most suitable option for development.


  • An investment in the region of €30m will be required for delivery of the entire project.


  • The schedule of greyhound racing activity will be maintained within the new development.


  • The issue of alternative uses of the facilities at the Sportsground is also a key element of the project. This development will provide a benefit to the entire region and facilities will be available for use by other sporting bodies where such demand arises.

Socio economic impact of Connacht Rugby

  • A study carried out in 2016 by KHSK economic consultants found that Connacht Rugby makes an annual contribution of €34.4m to the regional economy.


  • This total includes direct economic spend, the social value provided through volunteer activity and participation and the economic multiplier effect of all this activity.


  • Over 130 people are employed in the Sportsground through Connacht Rugby. This total includes professional and academy players along with non-playing staff, making it a significant employer in the local economy.


  • One of the key conclusions of the KHSK report is that the delivery of an improved, fit for purpose home for Connacht Rugby will lead to a further increase in economic activity considering the strategic location of the Sportsground to the entire region.


  • The report describes how a modern fit for purpose stadium has the capability to act as a beacon for regional development and a driver for economic growth to the region.


  • The report also stressed the critical role that public funding will play in the proposed development.


Stadium composition


  • Connacht Rugby commissioned an expert group to carry out a Stadium Composition Study and produce a detailed final report which provided a brief for the look and feel of the proposed development.


  • The survey targeted two key stakeholder groups namely the general public and the local business community.


  • The public survey was conducted online and had an extremely strong completion rate of 4,389 people, a positive indicator on its own.


  • In terms of the layout of the new development, it found that the preference of most spectators is to watch games from the sides of the pitch, in covered stands with a mixture of seating and terracing.


  • The business survey found a strong demand for corporate and business facilities on a new development and potential alternative uses of a stadium.


  • The the capacity will be in the region of 12,000 spectators.


  • One of the most significant aspect of the stadium composition will be the development of a state-of-the-art high-performance training centre on site. This will ensure co-location of Connacht Rugby’s training facilities and home stadium.


Project Funding


  • A funding model has been prepared as part of the plans which concludes that the total cost of the project will be in the region of €30m.


  • It is intended that the development will be funded through a combination of public funds, most notably through the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund, and private funding.


  • While applications have not yet opened for the fund, Connacht Rugby’s redevelopment plans have already received strong cross party-political support. Minister Brendan Griffin has already visited the Sportsground to be briefed first hand on the project.


Alternative uses of facilities


  • The Sportsground redevelopment will be a multi-use facility that will incorporate a high-performance training centre, fit for purpose rugby stadium, while maintaining greyhound racing facilities.


  • The training and playing facilities will be available on a routine basis for the hosting of professional and amateur club rugby fixtures.


  • The facilities will also be made available to other sporting bodies and community groups where such demand arises. The hosting of rugby and greyhound fixtures will obviously be prioritised in this regard.


  • Connacht Rugby is extremely conscious of the fact that a facility being supported by public funds will need to be of benefit to the entire community. Historically, the Sportsground has played host to a range of different sports. It is Connacht Rugby’s vision that this tradition will continue into the future.