Casement Park to hopefully host matches in 2023
By John Harrington
Chairperson of the Casement Park Stadium Development Project Board, Tom Daly, hopes that GAA matches will return to the Belfast venue by the second half of 2023.
The decision by Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, to recommend planning approval for the redevelopment of the stadium has now made it possible to imagine what the timeline from approval to ribbon-cutting will look like.
There’s still a journey to travel, but Daly is positive a very important step in the right direction has been taken.
“The Minister has announced her intention to provide notice to approve the project," he says. "It'll be about a week before we get the form of notification which will have attached to it planning conditions.
“We know there are going to be 55 planning conditions. For example, it will set the capacity at 34,578 and it will allude to a maximum of a three concerts per annum.
“A lot of the other planning conditions are related to environmental requirements. There's nothing there that we're concerned about, but we'll still have to study it.
“What happens then is it goes to Belfast City Council and then it has effect then after 28 days. We're then into a bit of a fallow period where we couldn't issue construction notice until we get past a number things.
“In addition to that, our planning design now has to be further developed with the contractor. So we'll have to do design development work in liaison with the planners with the builder's design team. That's a further detailed drawing stage which also helps pin down things in advance of us issuing a construction notice.
“That whole process of getting past certain windows for legal objections and sorting out the design process, we would see that with a fair wind we could be on site by the middle of next year.
“We would visualise it being a two year construction period. So, with a fair wind, we could see games taking place in that stadium in the latter half of 2023.”
Daly believes that a redeveloped Casement Park will have a very positive impact in a variety of ways that will be felt for decades to come.
“First of all there's a universal feeling of satisfaction throughout Ulster that something that has been so much a part of the strategic plan of the Ulster Council and with a big Antrim involvement, but also fitting into the national strategic plan of at least one major stadium of modern standard in each province, is now closer to being achieved,” he says.
“Among GAA people there will be a lot of satisfaction that has been achieved.
“It will mean an awful lot to people in Belfast and Antrim, particularly GAA people, because Casement Park has been historically very important to them and they haven't had it available to them for a protracted period of time.
“I suppose it's really a field of dreams for young people in Antrim and Ulster.
“The whole thing was founded and grounded in good will and a very positive attitude to doing something constructive that would boost the economy and boost sport and boost the whole profile of Ulster and Belfast in terms of the sporting heritage of the city.
“I think that ultimately is this is delivered, if you look at all the other big things that have happened in the space of civic projects around Belfast such as the Titanic centre and The MAC Arts centre and the work that has been done to give soccer and rugby what they asked for.
“If that is achieved for the GAA as well we'll have a city with very modern venues and sporting infrastructure that opens up all sorts of possibilities when those resources are combined with each other in terms of external events over the next 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.”