Hockey Ireland formally announced yesterday that Energia Park in Donnybrook will stage the Olympic Qualifier between the Irish Women’s Hockey team and Canada on Saturday and Sunday, November 2nd and 3rd.
At stake will be a place at the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
The team has not had an opportunity to play a competitive game in Dublin since they captured the hearts of the nation last summer making it to the World Cup Final in London.
The maximum size of the crowd that could be accommodated at UCD’s newly renovated National Stadium or at the Sport Ireland Campus is around 2,000 and the reason for going into Energia Park is the belief that there will be a much greater demand.
The roll-out carpet will take four days to prepare on top of the existing all-weather pitch in the stadium and is the same kind as will be used in Tokyo. It has been sourced from England where the same pitch was used earlier this year at Harlequins Rugby Club for an England match.
There is a significant cost in bringing the pitch over, likely to be in the region of €250,000 but not out of line in what it would have cost to build temporary structures at either of the two alternatives.
Sport for Business understands that Hockey Ireland’s two main commercial partners Softco and Park Developments are assisting in underwriting some of the financial risk involved in going down the path in order to grow the game.
The benefits of playing in an existing stadium include the capacity for hospitality at Old Wesley and Bective Rugby Clubs which are both located on the site.
Earlier this year Softball Ireland entertained the USA Development team in a match played on the Bective Pitch behind Energia Park, albeit on a much smaller scale to this. The venue has also hosted High School American Football as part of the College Football Classic a few years back, and a busy programme of Scholls, club and Ireland Women’s National team Rugby fixtures.
“Through our partnership with Big Stadium Hockey, the Polytan pitch which will be used in Tokyo will also be used in Energia Park,” said Hockey Ireland CEO Jerome Pels.
“This Polytan pitch is identical to both the one being laid at the Sport Ireland Campus and the one which will be used in Tokyo, ensuring a smooth transition and maximising home team advantage with the benefit of a huge and noisy home crowd.”
“An Olympic Qualifier on home soil is a unique event. We are delighted that Leinster Rugby shares our excitement and ambition about the potential for bringing Big Stadium Hockey to Energia Park and exploiting the benefits of existing infrastructure to raise the profile of women’s sport.”
“This is another hugely positive step for us in Leinster Rugby to showcase our ability to offer a facility like Energia Park to other governing bodies and organisations,” said Head of Commercial at Leinster Rugby, Kevin Quinn.
“To be able to host international sporting occasions in any code and at any level is something we take huge pride in and I know our two partners in Energia Park, Old Wesley and Bective Rangers, feel the same way.”
“We have worked very hard with our contractors SIS to ensure that the surface will be as good as any surface the players have ever played on and we take huge encouragement from the example last year at The Stoop in London which undertook a similar project for English Hockey to great success.”
“Hockey Ireland and ourselves share offices on the same campus up in UCD and it is brilliant that we can now share a home stadium together for these two games. We can’t wait to host them, and to fill out Energia Park in November.”
The games will be staged on the same weekend as the Rugby World Cup Final in Tokyo, though that game will be well finished with a start time of 8 am for us in Dublin.
The two games will both be televised live on RTÉ but with a database of 25,000 players and a base of support on all sides of Donnybrook in South County Dublin the expectation is that the games will sell out quickly. A lot of thought is going into pricing and ticketing strategies but no final decision has yet been reached on where the ticket price will be set.
Tickets will go on sale in two weeks time on October 1st.
“I am delighted to support the launch of the Olympic Qualifier, in particular, I am excited by the collaboration of Leinster Rugby and Hockey Ireland to put in place the structures for what is a unique event,” said Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.
“I would be hopeful that this collaboration will be an encouragement for other sports to follow in hosting major events by making full use of existing stadia.”
“I wish the athletes and all supporters an exciting weekend in November and wishing for every success in achieving the goal of a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.”
“The first Big Stadium Hockey event at The Stoop this year provided an atmosphere not seen at a hockey event in a long time,” said Big Stadium Hockey Lead, Paul Kamphuis.
“With an opportunity for Ireland’s women’s team to reach a first ever Olympic Games, maximising home support at the venue will provide the atmosphere to help make this dream possible.”
“Big Stadium Hockey enables the match to be played in a bigger stadium with more fans, more noise and a better atmosphere. We are excited to be involved in this historic event and look forward to bringing Big Stadium Hockey to Ireland.”
Here’s what the occasion looked like when Big Stadium Hockey made its first appearance in London…
Image Credit, Seb Daly, Sportsfile