In 2022, Dundalk FC formed a Development Group to examine all options and seek expert advice on the future of Oriel Park.
Since then, the Development Group, which consists of Simon Blackmore, Stephen Neary, Martin Connolly, Colm Murphy, Bernard Freeman and Gerry King, has held multiple meetings with local and national representatives, the FAI, and potential partners to put forward a pathway to ensure that Oriel Park is capable of meeting the demands of our senior and academy teams.
Below is an update from the Development Group on its progress to date. Please note that the images used are artistic impressions by AllSport Spectator Facilities Ltd and not actual designs.
Oriel Park or New Stadium?
Before the takeover in 2018, the club undertook an independent review into the viability of moving to a new site or remaining at Oriel Park.
This consultative review recommended remaining at Oriel Park due to its proximity to the town centre, the availability of adequate space for redevelopment and, of course, the fact that Oriel Park is our home. Also, the costs of moving to a new site were prohibitive.
We believe that supporters share our view that remaining in Oriel Park is the preferred option for the future of the club. The 2022 Supporter Consultation showed that 85.9% of fans would prefer to remain at Oriel Park.
High-Level Scope for Redevelopment of Oriel Park
An area that split opinion in the Supporter Consultation was the scope of any future development.
- 51% believed that the club should focus on a high-quality modern Category 3 League of Ireland Stadium while 49% believed that no work should commence until a plan exists to achieve a Category 4 stadium capable of hosting European matches past the early qualification rounds.
- Given that the club’s main aim is to provide quality facilities for players and supporters on a weekly basis, the Development Group decided to aim for a Category 3 stadium while attempting to meet as many of the Category 4 criteria as reasonably possible given the high costs involved. A staged approach can be taken to make further ongoing improvements.
Current and Future Needs
The high-level scope for the redevelopment of Oriel Park is based on the following needs:
1: Playing and Training Facilities
- Dundalk FC first installed a synthetic pitch in 2005. This has enabled the club to facilitate training and playing for the first team and the underage teams. Currently, the club has six academy teams and the club is planning to expand to allow for a senior women’s team within three years.
- From a football perspective, the Development Group, and every coach and footballer in our club, agree that it is preferable to install a grass pitTor to protect any new grass surface on the main Oriel Park pitch, the club would need to acquire at least three new pitches to facilitate training sessions and matches for all of our teams.
- The existing floodlights in Oriel Park were erected in 1967 and use halogen bulbs.
- These bulbs are extremely expensive to run, are energy intensive and provide unsatisfactory light to the playing field.
- The floodlights need to be replaced with modern LED floodlights both for economic and environmental reasons.
3. Spectator Facilities
- Discussions held by the Development Group on supporter facilities have been focused on the development of a 6,000-capacity stadium with suitable facilities for all categories of supporters (away fans, people with disabilities, family groups and sponsors).
- Discussions have advised that a phased development would be the most sensible approach to achieving these ambitions.
4. Other facilities
- New dressing rooms, referees’ rooms, media facilities, doping rooms, meeting rooms, offices etc are needed to accommodate our players, staff and guests.
5. Community Facilities
- Dundalk FC has always prided itself on the place it holds within our community, the club intends to build on, and strengthen, these ties. All discussions on redevelopment have been focused on providing additional space and facilities for use by community groups.
Local Area Plan Consultation
In the last number of months, the Development Group have held productive and encouraging meetings with our local authority, local political representatives, and the FAI. These talks have been wide-ranging and all aspects of the future needs of the club have been discussed.
- As part of these discussions, the club made a submission in June 2023 to Louth County Council Local Area Plan Consultation. This LAP submission can be viewed here.
- Funding is currently being sought to allow the club to appoint a consultant to prepare a final strategic plan for the redevelopment of Oriel Park.
- This plan will allow the club to approach funding agencies and stakeholders with a plan for the future.
Sports Capital Grant
The Development Group, with the assistance of the FAI and Louth County Council, have also made an application for Sports Capital Grant funding. The focus of this application is to deal with the most immediate issues that face Oriel Park. These are the pitch and the floodlights.
- A series of site visits and meetings have taken place with pitch specialists Clive Richardson Ltd. Other discussions have been held with other parties in relation to securing alternative training and playing facilities for our academy teams.
- The results of these discussions concluded that the installation of a grass pitch is not viable at this current time. Therefore, funding has been sought to install the highest specification of synthetic surface available that will use a new cork-based infill, rather than the black rubber that has been the norm since 2005.
- This pitch will hopefully allow the club to bridge the time gap until new additional playing and training facilities are available.
- The second part of the application involved the retirement of the existing floodlight system and replacement with modern LED floodlights.
- This submission was made to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media on September 8th, 2023.
The Development Group awaits a response to our application and is hoping to schedule further meetings with the owners of Dundalk FC in the near future.