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.”
Background to the project
Alternative uses of facilities