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€10m Semple Stadium redevelopment project in ‘cold storage’
The €10m refurbishment of the Kinane Stand was granted planning permission in spring 2020.

REDEVELOPMENT PLANS FOR Semple Stadium are “in cold storage” as Tipperary GAA waits in the funding queue.

The €10m refurbishment of the Kinane Stand was granted planning permission in spring 2020, just as the Covid pandemic hit. Those plans have been shelved as the stadium isn’t on GAA Central Council’s priority list.

The current planning permission applies until 2025 for a project which involves an extra tier aimed at putting in place corporate facilities and the installation of a gym to complement the county’s existing training facilities at the nearby Dr Morris Park.

In his final report as Tipperary GAA secretary, Tim Floyd explained that the concentration of major stadia in Munster along with provincial final fixtures owed to Cork since the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment mean demand for Semple Stadium will continue to decrease.

He acknowledged regular complaints related to the stadium’s public address system, scoreboard, disabled facilities, seats, and terracing, but the county must play a waiting game before resolving those issues.

“The FBD Semple Stadium Kinane Stand project is currently in cold storage until large-scale infrastructural funding becomes available from our own Central Council and Government departments,” wrote Floyd.

“We constantly hear complaints from patrons about the PA system, the scoreboard, disabled facilities, the condition of the seats and terraces, but these are issues related to an ageing stadium.

“Plans for a €10m investment in the stadium have been shelved as FBD Semple Stadium is not on Central Council’s priority list and without their backing we cannot progress. Currently, the only Munster stadium on their radar is Walsh Park so the rest of us must join the queue.

“With so many major stadia in the province, the demand for FBD Semple Stadium will continue to decrease. Presently in our home-and-away agreements with Cork, we owe two trips to Páirc Uí Chaoimh arising from their own construction years when they had to travel to Thurles. These can only be Munster finals as the round-robin games are not part of the agreement.”

“Likewise, Cork have a similar agreement with Limerick so little chance of seeing them play in Thurles for a long time in a Munster final. We struck it lucky in 2022 with a classic Limerick v Clare Munster final in FBD Semple Stadium but no guarantee of these finals in future years.”

That Munster final brought the closest-to-capacity crowd to Thurles in 2022 but one-third of games held at the stadium attracted less than 2,000 patrons. There were 2,507 fans at Saturday’s Munster Club hurling final between Ballygunner and Ballyea.

“For many years, the GAA promoted the development of major stadia without having a long-term strategic plan,” continued Floyd.

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“In Munster alone, we have four GAA stadia with approved safe capacities of 25,000 plus. FBD Semple Stadium (45,690), Páirc Uí Chaoimh (45,000), TUS Gaelic Grounds (44,023), and Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney (38,000). Then there’s Cusack Park with 19,000, Walsh Park (11,000), Páirc Uí Rinn with 16,440, and Austin Stack Park Tralee (12,000).

“How many occasions during the year are these stadiums anywhere near the full capacity?

“The nearest Semple Stadium got to full capacity this year was the Munster SH final (45,158) with the All-Ireland quarter-finals next at 32,640. For 10 months from January to October, Semple Stadium hosted 60 games and 20 of these had attendances less than 2,000.

“The average attendance at the round-robin Munster Senior Hurling Championship home games in Semple Stadium is 20-25,000 so one could argue that this is the target average for a GAA stadium in most counties.

“Carrying a stadium with up to 50,000 capacity needs constant maintenance and even during the Covid years, these costs were still there even with no rental income. The FBD name sponsorship has been a major boost in this area, and this is really appreciated.”

Floyd paid tribute to the staff involved in the upkeep of the ground and maintains the stadium will always be the “jewel in the crown for Tipperary GAA people”.

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