A new era looms for Connacht rugby

Multi-million redevelopment planned at Sportsground

BY Paul Collins 09:33 Monday 8 October 2018, 9:33 8 Oct 2018

Connacht’s John Muldoon and Bundee Aki celebrate their Pro 12 win

A brave new era beckons for Connacht rugby, with the announcement of a multi-million redevelopment for their Galway city home at The Sportsground.

No doubt they will have a history section on the game in the province in the proposed new pavilion, and two key dates will stand out.

Thursday January 30th 2003

Connacht had some notable victories in their time, but probably none compared to the one over the sport's governing body here sixteen years ago.

That was the date the IRFU completed a rare about turn in the face of mounting public pressure by announcing that they would not be dissolving the western province.

Union officers had proposed disbanding Connacht's professional squad from 2004 onwards as part of cost-cutting proposals.

If they did, the Friends of Connacht, the players of Connacht, the coaches of Connacht, the fans of Connacht, the politicians of Connacht and the men, women and children of Connacht all came to Dublin and marched to Lansdowne Road to show the IRFU that there IS a passion for the game out west, and that to scrap Connacht as a professional side would be to alienate some of Irish rugby’s most dedicated followers.

Fast forward to another key date

Saturday May 28th 2016 

Against the backdrop of their history, how sweet was it for the men from the West to head to Edinburgh and for Connacht to emerge 20-10 winners over Leinster.

For the first time in their 121-year history, Connacht win a major trophy as they brilliantly claimed the Guinness Pro12 title.

Pat Lam's side utterly deserved their win as they out-classed Leinster with a scintillating display of attacking rugby.

The next key date will be the official opening of Connacht Rugby's new facilities following the announcement of historic redevelopment plans for the Sportsground Stadium.

They say the project will deliver a modern, fit for purpose rugby stadium in addition to a new high-performance training centre for Connacht Rugby while also retaining existing greyhound racing facilities.

The redevelopment plan has been made possible following an arrangement reached between the Irish Greyhound Board and the freehold owners of the Sportsground, the Galway Agricultural and Sports Society, with respect to a shared vision for the future of the Sportsground.

The announcement comes on the back of a rigorous process to identify the optimum location, composition and design of the proposed new redevelopment in addition to an independent cost benefit analysis.

The development will cost in the region of €30m and will have a capacity of 12,000 spectators.

It is intended that the development will be funded through a combination of public funds, most notably through the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund, and private funding.

The arrangement with the Irish Greyhound Board will ensure that rugby fixtures and greyhound racing events will continue to be staged at the venue.

The multi-use facility will also be made available for the hosting of other sporting fixtures and events where such demand arises.

The strategic benefits of the project to the entire region are also closely aligned with the Government’s National Planning Framework, Project Ireland 2040 as well as the recently launched National Sports Policy, all of which highlight the need for a regional spread of capital investment throughout the country.

This development will provide a benefit to the entire region and facilities will be available for use by other sporting bodies where such demand arises.

Proof that you can change things and don't have to take 'no' for an answer.

It could all have been so radically different. Non existent in fact.

Fair play to all involved. Drive it on now.


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