By Pat Costello
ORDINARY Thursday became Tumultuous Thursday as representatives from the clubs in Kildare assembled in the Osprey Hotel to hear the news that they had all been expecting and waiting for, the redevelopment of St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge is to proceed from 27 March.
What had been awaited for probably 30 years was over in 30 minutes when first Co Chairman, Mick Gorman, and then Project Committee Chairman, Padraig McManus, briefed delegates on the commencement date, the duration of the contract and the likely return to playing in the new stadium.
The Design Team, led by Donnachadh O’Brien of Donnachadh O’Brien & Associates Naas, Civil & Structural Engineers, was engaged in 2018 and the process concluded with the signing of the contract for the construction phase on Thursday night by Mick Gorman and Darragh Elliott, Managing Director of the Elliott Group, who have been awarded the contract.
The construction phase will run for 18 months and will be funded in five strands, Co Treasurer told delegates, including the Large Scale Infrastructure Fund of €5m, Croke Park/Leinster Council, €3.6m, the Government Inward Investment Programme, €4, Kildare GAA, €2m and a loan from Bank of Ireland of €2.3m giving a total of approx €17m.
The figure represents a huge investment in Kildare GAA.
The Project includes the complete demolition of the existing stand and dressing room block to be replaced by a new entrance plaza, a new 3000 seat stand which will house dressing rooms, officials changing rooms, Club Kildare Lounge, multi-purpose rooms and shops. The pitch will have state of the art floodlighting and the full capacity of the newly developed Grounds is expected to be circa 15,000 and the reopening is anticipated in time for the County Finals in 2024.
The pitch redevelopment will include relaying of the playing surface, installation of an irrigation system and extension/widening of the pitch dimensions to 145m x 85m.
It is expected that intercounty games will be played outside the county during the construction phase, according to the Co Chairman, while club championship games with be played in Manguard Plus Kildare GAA Centre of Excellence, Hawkfield and other yet to be selected club grounds.
Mick Gorman, Kildare GAA Chairperson, said ‘’It is a momentous day for County Kildare. We have been working on this Project for several years and have encountered many obstacles and delays compounded by Covid and rising inflation. We have persevered and have finally succeeded in achieving this significant milestone. This will be a major step forward for Kildare GAA and also for the town of Newbridge.’’
Darragh Elliott, Managing Director of the Cavan based Elliott Group, who quipped that he wasn’t the first Cavan person to come to Kildare, said ‘’We are really excited at taking on this signature Project for Kildare GAA and are looking forward to mobilising on 27 March. We look forward to working with the Design Team and with the Kildare GAA officials to ensure that we produce a County GAA Grounds to be a source of pride for all Lilywhites’’
The final game in St. Conleth’s Park before work begins will be the National League game between Kildare and Meath on Sunday 26 March, which may well be a double header as Kildare are due to play Wexford in the Lidl LGFA League on the same day.
Mick Gorman also announced that work had been ongoing on naming rights for the new stadium and a significant statement would be made shortly.