Páirc Uí Chaoimh
|Location||Ballintemple, Cork, Ireland|
|Public transit||Kent Station
Blackrock Road bus stop
|Owner||Cork County Board|
|Capacity||32,550 (prior to 2015 demolition and redevelopment)|
|Field size||144 m x 88 m|
|Broke ground||April 1974|
|Opened||6 June 1976|
2014-17 (Under Construction)
|Construction cost||IR£1.7 million|
Páirc Uí Chaoimh (Irish pronunciation: [ˈpˠaːɾʲc iː ˈxiːvʲ], literally "O'Keeffe Park" in English) is a Gaelic games stadium in Cork, Ireland. The venue is located in Ballintemple and is built on the site of the original Cork Athletic Grounds. The facility initially opened in 1976, and as of February 2017[update] is closed for redevelopment works.
Primarily used as a venue for Gaelic games, it has been used to host Cork GAA's home league and championship games in both Gaelic football and hurling. The finals of both the Cork senior hurling and football championships have routinely been held at the venue. It has also hosted concerts by Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, U2, The Stone Roses and Oasis, as well as the annual Siamsa Cois Laoi festival.
Originally designed by Horgan and Lynch, the stadium had an initial capacity of 50,288. This capacity was progressively reduced because of safety regulations, and before the commencement of redevelopment works in 2015, it had a capacity of 32,550. It is planned to have a capacity of 45,000, when reopened in mid-2017.
Sports meetings were frequently held on the area now occupied by Páirc Uí Chaoimh even before the establishment of the Gaelic Athletic Association. By the late 1890s the Cork County Board were allowed by the Cork Agricultural Company, the leaseholders of the land, to enclose a portion of the site for the playing of Gaelic Games. The county board built its own stadium on the land in 1898. The Cork Athletic Grounds opened in 1904 and hosted All-Ireland finals, Munster finals and National League games. These grounds were close to what is now the CAB Ford garage on the Monahan Road.
By the 1960s, the Cork Athletic Grounds did not serve the needs of the modern era, and the ground's facilities were described as "primitive" by some contemporary commentators. In 1963 the county board bought some land at Model Farm Road, on the western side of the city, as the site for a new development. It was envisaged that this new stadium would hold up to 70,000 spectators and provide more modern facilities. However, problems arose and the project was abandoned.
In 1972 it was decided to redevelop the Athletic Grounds as an alternative, and additional land was acquired from the Munster Agricultural Society, whose premises adjoined the Athletic Grounds. The new stadium area covered almost 9 acres, with works undertaken by HMC Construction Ltd. Work began in April 1974, though details of the new stadium "of the most modern design and facilities" weren't unveiled until a press conference took place in the Imperial Hotel, Cork on 26 July 1974. The new stadium was estimated to cost approximately £1 million, but ultimately overran to £1.7 million.
Known as Páirc Uí Chaoimh, in commemoration of the late general-secretary of the GAA, Pádraig Ó Caoimh, the stadium was to have a capacity of 50,288. Designed by the Cork city firm of consultant engineers, Horgan and Lynch, Páirc Uí Chaoimh was designed to have seating for 19,688 spectators, half of which would be under cover on the southern side of the ground. Long-term plans envisaged the extension of the stand all around the stadium. Included underneath the stadium structure were a number of facilities, all served by the main circulation tunnel.
The Cork County Board were faced with a bill of £650,000 to cover the first stage of the development, which at the time was the biggest undertaken by any sports organisation in Ireland. In addition to grants from the GAA's Central and Munster Councils, finance for the project was raised by the sale of the Board's 45 acre property at Model Farm Road, and a sizeable part of 49 acres on the north side of the city. The Board's offices on Cook Street were also sold, while further funds were raised through Coiste Gael and commercial and private subscriptions. Additional funds were raised through the sale of 88 advertising spaces within the stadium and the sale of 3,000 five-year stand tickets at £30 each.
U2 played the final show on the European leg of the Joshua Tree Tour at the stadium in August 1987. On 30 and 31 July 1988, Michael Jackson performed at the stadium twice as part of his Bad World Tour, with a combined attendance of in excess of 100,000. The stadium was also the venue for Prince's first ever Irish concert on 7 July 1990, as part of his Nude Tour. U2 played again at the stadium on 24 August 1993 on their ZooTv Tour. 1995 saw the Féile Festival being transferred to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for one year, with the line-up including Ash, The Stone Roses, Paul Weller and Kylie Minogue. Oasis then performed two nights at the stadium on 14 and 15 August 1996 following their gigs at Knebworth where they had played to 250,000 people over two nights. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played at the stadium on 18 July 2013.
In 2005 the Cork County Board took the decision to replace all wood bench seats with plastic bucket seats in both the covered and open stands. Due to the shape of the new bucket seats, overall legroom was reduced, with many complaining of being unable to sit in the seat entirely. In response, the Cork County Board had the tops cut off the back of each seat to marginally improve the legroom.
21st century redevelopment
In October 2007 the Cork County Boards announced plans to redevelop Páirc Uí Chaoimh into an updated 60,000-seat sports and concert venue in conjunction with the Cork Docklands redevelopment which was estimated to cost over €30m. If these plans had gone ahead, Cork would have had the second largest stadium in the country behind Croke Park, which has a capacity of 82,300. The Cork stadium would have been bigger than Aviva Stadium (51,000), while also outstripping other Munster GAA venues.
In June 2010, Cork City Council voted in favour of the proposal to make 6.82 acres (27,600 m2) of land next to Páirc Uí Chaoimh available for the redevelopment of the stadium. As part of the redevelopment, a new 'Centre of Excellence' was also planned, with an ancillary all-weather pitch, floodlights, 1,000 seat stand, gym and changing and medical facilities. A museum was also planned, with dining facilities and a 400-space car park.
The stadium plans expected a small increase in capacity, with the new development accommodating 45,000 when completed. The development had been subject to local opposition as some residents complained that land used for the redevelopment had been earmarked for a public park. With Cork's average attendance not breaking 20,000 in 2011, there were also questions about the need for such a big venue, including by the Munster Council Secretary Pat Fitzgerald. In summer 2013, it was announced that an application was being lodged to redevelop the stadium, but due to financial difficulties the project was put on hold. In April 2014, Cork County Board and Cork City Council announced that they had been given the green light to proceed with the redevelopment project of the stadium.
The redevelopment plans proposed stand capacities as follows:
- New 3-tier South Stand (covered) 13,000 seats (up from its previous level of 9,435)
- Refurbished North stand (covered) 8,000 seats (down from its previous level of 10,030)
- Refurbished East and West Terrace 12,000 capacity each (uncovered)
In May 2014, the Government sanctioned a €30 million grant to help fund the €70 million regeneration of the stadium. The work was due to start in summer 2014 with it completed by autumn 2016. On 6 July 2014, the stadium hosted its last ever provincial football final in the old stadium with rivals Kerry running out comfortable winners 0-24 to Cork 0-12. It also hosted the 2014 Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final on 13 July 2014, with Cork beating rivals Limerick, 2-24 to 0-24, the final inter county game before the demolition takes place. In November 2014 An Bord Pleanala gave the green light to redevelop the stadium with construction to start in January 2015 and completion expected by mid-year 2017.
Records and capacity
Prior to the commencement of redevelopment in 2015, capacity comprised 9,500 seated in the covered (Sean McCarthy) stand, 10,000 in the uncovered stand, approximately 12,000 in the "Blackrock end" terrace, approximately 12,000 in the "City end" terracing, and 50 in the wheelchair area.
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The [GAA Cork County] Board were sub-tenants of the Munster Agricultural Society and it was agreed that [...] they could obtain a proper title at the Athletic Grounds [.. and ..] it was anticipated that the Model Farm Road Grounds would be disposed of to provide money to develop the Athletic Grounds
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