The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) hopes to improve the quality of its playing surfaces and drive revenue by announcing plans for a new turf-growing facility.
The body has acquired a farm in North Dublin as it seeks to limit the impact of staging concerts on its grass pitches.
The GAA’s showpiece Croke Park stadium in Dublin staged U2 and Coldplay concerts last summer, with the quality of the pitch criticised for sporting events held in the aftermath.
The GAA previously imported new pitches from the UK but has now moved to acquire a 50-acre farm in Naul for a reported €700,000 (£600,000/$875,000).
Croke Park Stadium director Peter McKenna told the Irish Mirror newspaper: “We measure the pitch and the pitch characteristics on a continuous basis so yeah, I would have been happy if not ecstatic with the way the pitch was after the concerts last year.
“The real issue came that there was a very, I wouldn’t say severe, but there was a drought in the UK so it meant the ideal type of surface we wanted wasn’t available. It was just too flimsy. That’s just something you couldn’t really contemplate until the weather happens as it were.
“So you add to that the risk of harvesting out there, shipping it, taking it across the sea, to reduce the time but also to have it growing closer to us and have a lot more pitches growing, that takes that risk away. That really was to de-risk the issue and then see can we make this something which is going to be profitable as well.”
McKenna explained that the GAA eventually hopes to sell the pitches it grows on the farm to other stadia across Europe. “There is no reason when it comes to the time, that we won’t be able to export the pitches,” he said.
“What we have here, climatically, is a far better set-up than a lot of Europe, where it is frosty and frozen. But that is down the line.”
Croke Park’s summer concert schedule this year features two shows by Taylor Swift in June, with Michael Buble visiting the following month. McKenna believes that with the GAA becoming more involved in the relaying of pitches, it will become easier to attract major acts to Croke Park.
He added: “It’s a large part of the cost of staging a concert so if we can reduce that cost it just makes us more attractive to concert promoters.
“One of the difficulties we have being on an island is that when a concert comes across they lose a day on the way in and they lose a day on the way out and they don’t have that same issue when they’re travelling in Europe so anything we can do to make us more cost-effective, so much the better.”
IMAGE: Fabricio Trujillo