“Build it and they will come” – a look at LOI stadium development
“Build it and they will come”: LOI Ground developments.
Last weekend’s FAI Cup Final’s record-breaking crowd is visual evidence of the latent potential that we have within our domestic game.
The 43,000-strong crowd witnessed St Patrick’s Athletic take the cup back to Inchicore, defeating cross-town rivals Bohemians in the process.
It registers as the ninth-highest domestic cup attendance in Europe this season. A statistic that highlights an increase of 190 percent increase in attendance compared to 2014.
The FAI Cup Final crowd of 43,881 exceeded the attendance for 2023 finals in Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark 🤯
— LOI Radar (@LOI_Radar) November 13, 2023
LOI stadium attendance.
This season has seen unprecedented growth in crowd numbers across both divisions proving that the appetite is there.
For the finalists in question, St Pats have seen crowds increase by 162 percent in five years whilst Bohs have seen that go up by 204 percent in a decade.
The same is true around the country with extraordinary ticket demand and sell-outs week in and week out across both divisions.
Without any real input from either the government or the FAI, the credit for this is down squarely to the people doing the hard graft working in and supporting the grassroots level.
— ROI Radar (@IrelandRadar) November 12, 2023
Despite all of this positivity however, grounds across the country with the exception of a small few are simply inadequate to attract supporters. The statistics show that the appetite is there.
Let’s take a look at some potential ground redevelopments that we could see in the future
In the words of Ray Kinsella, “build it and they will come!”
A look at League Of Ireland Stadiums
Dalymount Park – Bohemians
The long-running saga of the redevelopment of Irish football’s traditional home has been ongoing for well over a decade.
After a number of shelved and subsequently revised plans, it appears as if Dalyer will finally get the go-ahead with a completion date estimated in early 2027.
— Bohemian Football Club (@bfcdublin) October 6, 2023
The pitch is set to be rotated 90 degrees and will have a capacity for 8,000 spectators.
Oriel Park – Dundalk
For years supporters have complained about the state of Oriel Park.
Its dilapidated stands, low-grade plastic pitch, and dreadful facilities are simply not good enough for the once dominant force of Irish football.
Despite the millions in European money that flowed through the club at one point, its multitude of owners, and an international manager, almost no improvements have been made to the stadium.
Dundalk apply for funding from Irish government to help finance Oriel Park redevelopment as ambitious plans revealedhttps://t.co/QExfingDgy
— Owen Cowzer (@OCowzer) October 9, 2023
Their plans include a 6,000-seater stadium built on its current infrastructure, new training pitches, floodlights, and a grass pitch.
The Brandywell – Derry City
Derry City are hoping to add to their recent development of the Mark Farren Stand, completed in 2018.
Plans for a new terrace along Brandywell Road have already been approved by Derry and Strabane district council.
Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee today unanimously approved plans for redevelopment work at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.
— Derry Strabane Cncl (@dcsdcouncil) October 4, 2023
The work would increase the overall capacity of the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium to almost 6,300 from 3,700.
Donegal Community Stadium – Finn Harps
Executing the plans for the new home of Finn Harps has been excruciatingly slow.
Ground was initially broken in 2008 but it took six years for any significant work to be carried out. Progress has been stalled since then.
Finn Harps confirm that Jack Chambers, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, has given the green light for the reconfigured plans for the Donegal Community Stadium as submitted by the club
It is hoped Harps will be in their new home by 2024. The long wait is almost over pic.twitter.com/AkI3NEaFvf
— Between the Stripes (@betweenstripes) August 4, 2022
As reported by the Donegal Daily in 2023 the stadium is said to be on track for completion by 2024 at a total cost of €8 million.
Whether that comes to fruition or not remains to be seen but hopefully a new dawn for football in the north-east isn’t far away.
The Showgrounds – Sligo Rovers
In March of this year, Sligo Rovers received planning permission for their masterplan. A new state-of-the-art stadium is on the way to be completed in advance of the Club’s Centenary in 2028.
— Buildinginfo.ie (@BuildingIndex) January 30, 2023
The work would involve the construction of two brand-new stands with significant upgrades to the existing Main and Pet Shop End stands.
Upon completion, The Showgrounds will be a Uefa category 3 stadium.
Weavers Park – Drogheda
Much like their Louth rivals, Drogheda’s ground has been met with plenty of criticism over the past number of years.
With new owners, ground improvements were one of a number of key takeaways and they are badly needed on Boyneside.
💰€500,000 debt cleared
🏟️€15 million new stadium
👨💼Kevin Doherty remaining at the helm
🗓️10/20 year plan
Plenty of big promises from Trivela Group on Drogheda United, but can they deliver?https://t.co/fft7t6Oy5U
— Oisín Doherty (@O_Doherty_99) November 3, 2023
We can hope that unlike Dundalk and their former American owners, Trivela Group and the talk of upgrades won’t just be hot air.
Investment in infrastructure and facilities is likely to happen sooner than later with FAI licensing requirements meaning extensive work will need to be carried out.
Tolka Park – Shelbourne
Although nothing official, it is highly anticipated that a significant redevelopment of Tolka Park will take place in the next few years.
Having been saved from the wrecking ball by supporters in 2022, a deal over its ownership is expected to be struck between Shelbourne and Dublin City Council either this year or early next.
"The shareholders wish to note their commitment to securing and renovating Tolka Park, the status of which is currently at final stages with Dublin City Council."
Securing Tolka Park trumps any player or management contract extension, who are at SFC for a limited period of time. https://t.co/yXQhCWtK7E
— Shane Dawson (@SDawsonSport) November 11, 2023
Once that is over the line then ground improvements will follow suit. The board appears to have the club’s interests at heart and European football next season can only bring about further positivity in Drumcondra.
Richmond Park – St Patricks Athletic
The ambitious plans for the 12,000-seater Richmond Arena were shot down by the City Council in 2018 in favour of housing.
However, earlier this year the Council commenced a process of purchasing property in and around St Pat’s home in the first step towards redevelopment.
DCC chief Owen Keegan favourable towards Richmond Park redevelopment with Shelbourne set to remain at Tolka Park https://t.co/IodoF8ZL0S
— Irish Independent (@Independent_ie) May 5, 2022
While the club owns the ground, the area is too small to redevelop and the Council is seeking to acquire the additional property that borders the stadium.
Plans were announced earlier this week for Wexford FC to leave their current home in Ferrycarrig Park for a new, custom-built stadium in Wexford town with a capacity for up to 6,000 people.
— Wexford People (@Wexford_People) November 13, 2023
It forms part of the council’s ambitious plans to house a university campus, two new schools, housing, and other sporting facilities within a land bank on the outskirts of Wexford town. It is very early stages and no masterplan has been released yet.
For more information and updates about the League Of Ireland, make sure to follow @LOI_Radar on Twitter.