Casement Park will be a Gaelic field of dreams for Belfast.Ulster GAA

Ulster GAA has unveiled its proposed design for a new provincial stadium in Belfast.

The new Casement Park has been mired in controversy since being first mooted over size and safety concerns.

In December 2014, a High Court judge quashed a ministerial decision to grant planning approval for the redevelopment of the stadium on the Andersonstown Road with a capacity for 38,000 spectators.

While many residents living in the vicinity of the ground welcomed the decision, the GAA was left reeling.

In recent months, however, Ireland’s largest sporting organization has begun a consultation with the wider West Belfast community ahead of a new planning application.

The new stadium design sees capacity reduced to 34,500, incorporating terracing to hold 8,500.

The highest point of the new stadium is 12 meters lower than the highest point of the original plan.

Speaking at the design unveiling, Tom Daly, chairman of the Casement Park Project Board, said the new design demonstrated Ulster GAA’s willingness to “engage, listen and evolve our plans for a new Casement Park stadium.”

“In the new scheme we have reduced the scale, mass, size and capacity of the stadium whilst at the same time creating a first class atmosphere for GAA supporters through the bowl design and up-close spectator experience.

Planned exterior of Casement Park stadium

Planned exterior of Casement Park stadium

"We are also committed to delivering a travel culture change within the GAA with a sustainable transport strategy inclusive of coach travel, park and ride and integrated travel choices with ticket sales. 

“This strategy is good for ease of access to and from the stadium, is cognizant of the needs and views of the local community and is good for the wider environment.”

Michael Hasson, Ulster GAA President, added: "GAA members, supporters as well as people across the local community, are looking forward to an exciting new beginning for Antrim and a provincial stadium for Ulster. 

“We want to create a positive sporting legacy and an iconic stadium that will be a beacon to inspire young GAA players throughout, West Belfast, Antrim and across Ulster.”

With the stadium being built in one of Northern Ireland's unemployment black-spots, Rory Miskelly, Casement Park Project Director, said the Casement Park project team was committed to providing long term socio-economic benefits to West Belfast. 

“There is great potential for local people and the wider community to benefit from job opportunities that will be created both during the construction of the stadium and in its day-to-day operation.

“The design reflects our vision to develop a stadium that supports, enhances and enriches the cultural and heritage opportunities for the local community and I would urge everyone with an interest in the project to go see the new design and let their voice be heard.”

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This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. To read more stories, visit their website here