The Casement Park controversy rumbles on as latest estimates put the build cost at around £308 million….

As the costs spiral higher and higher, Casement Park is becoming a real point of contention for our new executive. From the BBC:

The cost of redeveloping Casement Park in west Belfast for the Euro 2028 soccer tournament could be more than £300m.

An official estimate puts the total at around £308m.

The figure was quoted in a recent letter by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to the Communities Minister Gordon Lyons.

However, the price of the project has not been finalised.

The original cost of rebuilding the stadium a decade ago was estimated to be £77.5m.

Casement Park is one of 10 venues due to host matches at the Euro 2028 tournament, but rebuilding work must begin soon or Belfast will miss out.

At present, there is not a funding package in place to pay for the redevelopment, particularly as costs have risen to meet the standards required for the Euros.

The letter, which contained the estimated cost of around £308m, was first reported by UTV.

They also reported that Mr Heaton-Harris had told the department that the government “will not accept a position where it is expected to cover the scale of funding gap there appears to exist”.

As things stand, there is a huge shortfall in funding.

The Stormont executive has pledged £62.5m, the Irish government has promised £42.8m while the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has said it will pay £15m.

In total, that amounts to less than half of the estimated cost.

The original rebuild cost in 2012 was put at £77 million.

On one side, many Unionists hate the GAA and will use any excuse to put the boot in. Historically many Unionists have criticised it as ‘The GAA is the IRA at play”. It would not matter if the stadium cost £100 quid. They would still try to block it.

On the other side proponents of the scheme put out that the GAA is the largest sport in Northern Ireland and it is only fitting that they have a modern stadium.

In the middle is the majority, who don’t care one way or the other but take issue with the ever-growing costs.

For comparison:

The redeveloped Croke Park cost €266 million in 2004 renovation.

The controversial redevelopment Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork in 2017 seems a bargain now at only €110 million. Even at this cost the stadium costs as proving at real headache for Cork GAA, so much so that they are even considering selling the naming rights to Supervalu.

Closer to home, Ulster Rugby received £14.5m in 2012 to improve Ravenhill. The IFA got £31 million to redevelop Windsor Park.

As these projects always tend to go over budget, the final bill could easily be in the range of £350-£400 million.

I personally think the GAA should consider a plan B where there is a less ambitious redevelopment of Casement or a new brownfield site and the money saved is used to improve grounds and facilities all over Ulster. I don’t think it is sustainable that one ground is going to suck up more money than every ground in Ulster combined. Casement could end up being an expensive mill stone around Ulster GAAs neck as you have to factor in long term running costs. Not to mention other sports will also be demanding equal funding.

If any of you have insight into why the costs have spiraled so much it would be great to get your views in the comments.

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