Casement Park seven-day-a-week hub plans



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Work on GAA stadium begins Image: Populous

Preparation work has begun for the planned redevelopment of the Casement Park Stadium in West Belfast, Northern Ireland (UK).

‘BBC NEWS’ stated that although funding for the project is yet to be finalized, steps are being taken to try to ensure construction can begin immediately if the money is secured.

The 31,500-capacity Casement Park Stadium is a sports stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland (UK). It’s the main stadium for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and is home to the Antrim hurling and Gaelic football teams.

Dublin (Ireland)-based the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organization focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, Gaelic handball, and rounders.

‘BBC NEWS’ further stated that the multimillion pound redeveloped stadium will be primarily used for the GAA games.

But it is also due to host the soccer matches of the EURO 2028 tournament.

The 2028 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA EURO 2028 or simply EURO 2028, will be the 18th UEFA European Championship, the quadrennial international football championship. The United Kingdom and Ireland will host EURO 2028. The tournament will take place from June-July 2028 in nine Host Cities, including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. The UEFA EURO 2028 opening game is scheduled to begin on June 16th, 2028 and the final on July 16th, 2028.

Nyon (Switzerland)-based the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach football in Europe and the transcontinental countries of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan, as well as some Asian countries such as Israel, Cyprus and Armenia. The UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Since 2022, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national teams and clubs from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.

The redevelopment must begin by Summer – and be completed by mid-2027 – to meet a deadline set by the European football governing body UEFA.

The Casement Park is one of 10 venues in the United Kingdom and Ireland chosen to host matches in the international tournament.

The UEFA is monitoring the situation closely as the wait continues for building work to begin on the planned 34,500-capacity stadium.
 
In a letter to the residents who live beside the site on Andersonstown Road, the GAA outlined the preparatory work due to take place in the coming months:

  • February to March: Maintenance and pre-enabling works; and
  • April to June: Site clearance.

 
The residents were also told that the work would take place from 08:00 to 18:00 GMT on weekdays and 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays.
 

Viewpoints

The GAA fans shared their thoughts on the Casement Park redevelopment.

One underage player said it was “disappointing” not to have had the stadium built for her own generation.

“The Casement Park has to be done,” said another man who last watched an Ulster Rugby (rugby union team from the island of Ireland) final at the stadium in 1968.

He added, “I’d love to be there before I die to see another one. The people of West Belfast realize the potential is there.”

Confidence was high among the spectators, with many convinced the as-yet-undecided funding for the stadium will be secured.

Averred one GAA fan, “It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen, there’s no two ways about it.”

Another man added, “It’s been a long, long time… I think it will happen. I definitely think it should go ahead this year and hopefully we’ll have a stadium in two-and-a-half years that we can be proud of.”

The initial cost of the stadium – £77.5m – has more than doubled in the past decade and there is no clarity yet on where the extra money is going to be found.

The GAA has said it is willing to pay at least £15m, with other funding coming from Stormont (Parliament buildings), plus the British and Irish Governments.

There is no agreement yet on exactly how much each of the stakeholders is prepared to pay.

The redevelopment is being overseen by the Department for Communities.

The Minister for Communities of Northern Ireland, Gordon Lyons, declined to comment on speculation that the estimated cost could now exceed £200m.
 

Seven-day-a-week Hub

In spite of a decade of delays and uncertainty over the funding, the GAA remains committed to the project.

Tom Daly, Ulster GAA (the governing body for Gaelic Games in Ulster – Irish province) Stadium Board Chairman, said the organization was “delighted” to support the Irish Football Association by providing the stadium as a tournament venue.

Belfast (UK)-based the Irish Football Association is the governing body for association football in Northern Ireland. It organized the Ireland national football team from 1880 to 1950, which after 1954 became the Northern Ireland national football team.

Added Daly, “The Casement Park will host some of the largest and most significant GAA games on the island and it will also be a seven-day-a-week hub that the whole community can access and enjoy.”

Public money was promised to the project in 2011 as part of a scheme to improve the sporting facilities for the GAA, rugby and soccer in Northern Ireland.

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