Connacht to expand long-time home

Irish Pro14 rugby union club Connacht has today (Monday) revealed plans for a €30m (£26.4m/$34.5m) redevelopment of its Sportsground Stadium that would expand the capacity of the venue to 12,000.

Connacht has called the Galway-based stadium home since 1927, with the facility currently catering to around 8,000 fans. Under the agreement reached with the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) and the freehold owners of the Sportsground, the Galway Agricultural and Sports Society, the revamp will seek to deliver a modern, fit for purpose rugby stadium in addition to a new high-performance training centre for Connacht while also retaining existing greyhound racing facilities.

Today’s announcement comes on the back of a process to identify the optimum location, composition and design of the proposed new redevelopment in addition to an independent cost benefit analysis. As part of the shortlisting process drawings were prepared for three separate sites before the Sportsground was chosen as the most viable option.

Connacht said it is intended that the development will be funded through a combination of public funds, most notably through the Irish government’s Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund, and private funding.

The arrangement with the IGB 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, with an all-weather playing surface being able to potentially accommodate soccer and Gaelic games.

CEO of Connacht Rugby, Willie Ruane, said: “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 €34.4m 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.”

CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board, Ger Dollard, added: “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.”

Image: Connacht Rugby