Wednesday, 24 November 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
22. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he has received a copy of the report on the development of a national stadium carried out by the Government appointed feasibility group. [24259/99]
23. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if the Government has received the report of the feasibility study on the possible development of a national sports stadium; if so, if it has considered the study; the main findings of the study; the plans, if any, to publish the study; when a final decision will be made on the stadium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24749/99]
A feasibility study on the development of a national stadium was commissioned by the stadium steering committee, established by the Government under the chairmanship of Mr. Derek Keogh, to conduct the study and to make recommendations based on the findings of the study.
Following a tendering process carried out under EU procurement directives and Government contracts procedures a consortium of consultants led by PricewaterhouseCoopers was commissioned by the committee to conduct a full feasibility study. This study was to cover a range of issues relevant to developing and operating an 80,000 seat sports stadium, including development costs; economic, social and other benefits; potential demand for use of the facilities from various sporting bodies, entertainment and other commercial categories; and to discuss possible locations for the stadium.
I understand the feasibility study has now been completed and presented to the stadium steering committee and that it will be brought to Government for consideration and decision at an early date. The question of the publication of the study will be considered at that time.
Mr. Allen: I am surprised to hear the same response as was given on 13 October. We were told then that the feasibility study had been finalised and would be with the Government shortly. One month and a half later the Minister still has not received the study. Does the Minister have the final cost of the feasibility study and has he reconsidered his position regarding the cost of the stadium which has been estimated at £300  million? Has he balanced the cost of this national stadium against the nationwide needs for top-class modern facilities such as 25 metre pools and all-weather facilities? Does the Minister think it would be better to spend our resources on upgrading our facilities nationwide rather than duplicating or triplicating stadium facilities, especially in view of the development of Croke Park and of the FAI stadium in west Dublin.
Dr. McDaid: I have given the cost of the feasibility study on a number of occasions. I think it cost approximately £380,000 but I can check that for the Deputy. On the last occasion, the Deputy complained about having a feasibility study in the first place. We did a feasibility study because one had never been done on this subject before. We have been talking about it for ten years. We will bring that to Cabinet shortly and I am hopeful of the outcome.
In regard to the cost versus need issue, the Deputy mentioned swimming pools. Only £3 million per year had been provided towards swimming pools up to now but this year we are increasing that to £15 million per year. Those matters are ongoing.
Dr. McDaid: In regard to the other costs, there are £32 million worth of commitments to build facilities around the country, which both the Deputy and I made. I wish they would send me the invoices because I have the money and I am willing to pay them. There is money available if they would send in the invoices. This was a small price to pay for a feasibility study, which it is necessary to have before such major decisions are taken.
Mr. O'Shea: In regard to the stadium, what sporting events, other then GAA events, attract anywhere near an attendance of 80,000? How was the figure of 80,000 arrived at? Given that the FAI's representation on the stadium steering committee was on the basis that it was going ahead with its own project, has the whole area become a total mess? What exactly is happening? We hear that something will go to Government in the near future. Has there been any preliminary report back from the steering committee? Is anyone talking to the Minister about this project at the moment?
Dr. McDaid: With the exception of a leak – he who leaks always tries to benefit from it – that is all that is available to us at the moment. It will be discussed at Cabinet shortly. I assure the Deputy I look forward to proposing and encouraging it, as I am sure he would.
The Deputy raised the issue of what sporting events would take place in a national stadium. All  sports would be eligible to participate. I take the Deputy's point that not many events would fill the stadium. A certain number of events are needed to make it viable initially. However, let us walk before we run. For example, why can we not look to the future? As the Deputy is aware, sport is becoming a major business, with Sky television coverage of Manchester United worth £600 billion. Sport is becoming bigger and bigger, with more people being attracted to it. Let us be futuristic about this. Ireland needs a stadium. I would like the European Cup final to be played here one day, which brings in £2 billion for one match. However, unless we have the facility we will never be at the races, so to speak.
I have always wished the FAI well with its stadium. It continues to advertise and promote its stadium. I will continue to back this idea also. There may be negative points about it in the feasibility study but there is also a huge number of positive points about it. I hope we will all be encouraged to back it when we come to that point. The FAI stadium and the feasibility study on one, two or three stadiums are up for discussion and will be in the public arena shortly.
Mr. Allen: Will the Minister clarify the promise made by a number of business people of £50 million towards the stadium if it is proceeded with? Were any conditions attached to that donation? Am I right in thinking that, since the Minister spoke about Sky television and European competition, the stadium is being considered for use in the future development of a European-wide soccer championship? Are we getting into the whole area of business and sport and providing a facility for future profit making? Are conditions attached to the donation of £50 million?
Dr. McDaid: Lest another story starts, I am not promulgating any European league or anything like it. The donor, J. P. McManus, has offered us a very substantial amount of money, a gift to the nation. His only stipulation is that it must be a state-of-the-art stadium. He described it as a visionary statement for the next generation. There are no strings attached.
Mr. O'Shea: The FAI has managed to put the funding together for its project from its own sources. Does the Minister have an approximate figure for how much State money will go into this project if it goes ahead? I take it he is giving the House a categoric assurance that this will not be a commercial venture. I would like an undertaking that any profits accruing from the stadium will be ploughed back into sport at grassroots level.
Dr. McDaid: I did not give any such undertaking about commercial ventures or otherwise. That point has not even arisen at this stage. The FAI has gone ahead and undertaken its own fundraising. It has not asked the Government for anything  towards its stadium. Much of the funding raised by the FAI is dependent on a stadium being built. The estimated cost of this stadium could be between £200 million and £300 million.
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