Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (12)

Jack Wall


99 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason he recommended Lansdowne Road as the location for the new national stadium as opposed to the site at Abbotstown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6169/04]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

Proposals for meeting the stadium needs of our rugby and soccer teams have been the subject of discussion in the House over a long period. I indicated that it was my intention to bring proposals to Government to deal with the matter. Accordingly, last month I brought two options to Government to deal with the current deficit in modern stadium facilities in Dublin. These were the development of a stadium at Abbotstown or the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road stadium. The Government decided to approve the proposal to support a joint Football Association of Ireland-Irish Rugby Football Union project to redevelop Lansdowne Road as a 50,000 all-seated state-of-the-art stadium.

In this context the Government approved the provision of funding of €191 million towards the project, which is estimated to cost €292 million, with the balance being provided by the two sporting organisations.

What mechanism will be used to draw down State funding in this regard? Will it be the same mechanism used in regard to investment in Croke Park? Will the IRFU drive the project or will the Minister's Department have an input into the project team? What part will the FAI play in the project? Will it be like in the past whereby the IRFU will be the landlords and the FAI will be strictly tenants in the national stadium? Will control of the stadium be within the remit of the IRFU?

My understanding is that all of that needs to be discussed. In due course we will see what emerges from it. As of now the fee simple is held by the IRFU. It is possible that a management team will run the new stadium from which the various sporting organisations will rent it for their respective events. With regard to the question of the funding, the IRFU and the FAI have committed themselves to putting up in excess of €100 million, which will be put up through the advance sale of tickets to corporations and the business community generally.

Construction of the stadium will be overseen by a monitoring committee, which I will establish under the direction of Mr. Furlong, Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. He has agreed to direct this implementation team, which will be charged with ensuring the timely construction of the stadium. It is hoped the stadium will be constructed by 2008 and that the pre-planning and planning issues can be got over as quickly as possible. Obviously, if there are objections this will possibly give rise to difficulties but I hope there will not be objections. I remain confident that the stadium will be up and running by 2008. We badly need this stadium. Irish sport was the winner. The stadium will prove to be a useful facility for all the sporting organisations involved and people will be extremely comfortable with it.

I welcome the decision. The new stadium will be of major benefit.

As an aside to the position regarding the stadium, I wish to ask a question I have asked previously on a number of occasions, in response to which the Minister will probably say he has no control over the matter. A sports conscious man like Mr. McManus was willing to give to the Exchequer IR£50 million to develop a national stadium. Does the Minister intend to talk to Mr. McManus about his offer, or is it within his remit to do so? Is it feasible for him to make representations for such money to be invested in some sporting organisations that need funding? Alternatively, could such money be used to fund RAPID programmes, or is the matter only within the remit of Mr. McManus at this stage?

When Mr. McManus put forward IR£50 million for the construction of a national stadium, it was given on the basis that the Government would construct a publicly funded stadium with a capacity of 80,000 at Abbotstown, but that patently will not now be built. The Government decided that the stadium will proceed at Lansdowne Road. Budgetary considerations and economic conditions meant we were not in a position to proceed with the Abbotstown proposal. In those circumstances the task I had was to see if there was a viable alternative that would be acceptable. I am happy to say we have such an alternative and that the stadium project can now proceed.

With regard to Mr. McManus's money, I do not believe it is available for Lansdowne Road. It would be quite unfair to ask him now to switch over to a concept to which, in truth, he had not subscribed in the first instance. We are constructing a new sporting campus at Abbotstown. That point may have been lost in the euphoria of the moment when we announced details of the stadium. The campus will be of considerable benefit. We intend to ensure that, as resources allow, we will have a necklace of centres where we can ensure sporting excellence and greater participation at Abbotstown. The National Aquatic Centre, which was built on budget and on time, is an example of what can be achieved there. I envisage proceeding with the campus and planning for it.

The Campus Stadium Ireland Board was convened. I explained what I and the Government wanted. I asked its members to prioritise the building of the campus, set out the facilities they believe are required and in the order in which they are required in order that I would be enabled to go to the Minister for Finance during the Estimates discussions in the autumn with a view to obtaining funding to progress the campus. It is important to point out that an important part of the Government decision was that the campus would proceed.

That concludes priority questions. We now come to deal with Other Questions. I remind Members that supplementary questions and answers are confined to one minute.