The Irish Greyhound Board has announced an ambition to invest €3 Million over the next five years in upgrading facilities at Ireland’s premier greyhound stadium, Shelbourne Park in the literal shadow of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
In fact, the announcement yesterday suggests the shadow could be metaphorical as well with an acknowledgement that ‘Shelbourne Park is competing with the Aviva (stadium) and Croke Park but we are not at that standard yet’.
The stadium which has hosted racing for 90 years and was last fully upgraded in 2002 is to be prioritised for upgrading as part of a new forthcoming five-year strategic plan for the greyhound sector.
Shelbourne was closed for much of the first half of 2017 in a dispute among Greyhound Owners and trainers over the Greyhound Board’s sale of Harolds Cross, Dublin’s only other track. This has yet to be finalised with the Department of Education which is buying the land but is expected to be so shortly.
That will make available something in the region of €23 Million to stabilise the sport’s finances and build on its strengths. Those include the strong earning potential within the capital city of Shelbourne Park.
It is also intended to place a stronger focus on the corporate and tourist markets.
“The strongest economic growth is in Dublin which also has the greatest disposable income,” said Irish Greyhound Board CEO Gerard Dollard yesterday.
“Other tracks and areas will receive investment but Shelbourne, as the flagship stadium in the IGB portfolio, has to be a priority.”
“There has been no significant investment at Shelbourne since 2002 and facilities are badly in need of upgrading to meet the needs and expectations of the modern day consumer.”
“Technology enhancements, upgrade of facilities, track improvements and other proposals that will refresh and modernise the offering are all up for consideration. This is not a rebuilding of Shelbourne Park greyhound stadium but more a revamp of current facilities.”
“All projects will have to be carefully planned so as to minimise any disruption to racing schedules’’
The forthcoming investment plan from the IGB will require Government approval before any surplus from Harold’s Cross can be used and the semi-state will have to adhere to a strict public spending code and capital investment appraisal process.
The commitment to redevelop Shelbourne Park was made by the IGB last year as part of resolving a dispute over the sale of Harold’s Cross.
In December 2017, the IGB sought expressions of interest for professional services to design a ‘Master Plan for Refurbishment/Upgrade works’ at Shelbourne Park. Taking account of any design, planning and procurement processes, it is anticipated that upgrade and improvement works would commence in the latter part of 2018.
“The master plan will assist in guiding us to select and prioritise the most appropriate projects to best utilise the funding that we expect will be available,” added Dollard.