Sportsground set for new spectator facilities
Michael Swift and chef JP McMahon at the launch of the Connacht Rugby Corporate hospitality packages. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy
By Linley Mackenzie
A new matchday experience is awaiting Connacht Rugby fans when they visit the Sportsground this season.
A new covered terrace, children’s zone, bigger Clan bar for season ticket holders, and a new corporate entertainment area are being planned to ensure the Sportsground caters fully for all fans.
Increasing development on the east side of the pitch, which boasts the Connacht Branch offices, will ensure it becomes Connacht’s “ spiritual home”
Connacht Rugby head of marketing Alex Saul says the changes will ensure the experience is more fan friendly.
“In the past it has been difficult for fans to interact with Connacht Rugby. They could buy a ticket, stand on the terrace, buy a pint, and leave, but our research reveals that we have hugely passionate fans, more likely to act out of their loyalty than Leinster, Munster, or Ulster, but we were not giving them an opportunity.
“It is about improving the experience and bringing more theatre and colour to the Sportsground. The changes have been developed through a fan charter which says that we will deliver on four key areas,” he says.
The new covered terrace in the ground’s northwest corner will create an additional capacity for 1,000 people, while temporary terraces will also be erected and remain until after the Heineken Cup games to increase capacity to 10,000 for the big games.
Also in that area will be a new food and beverage area, which Alex Saul says will provide fans with “premium products which are all produced in the province”.
A new children’s zone, in addition to a special seating in the Clan Terrace, will provide youngsters with interactive activities where they can practise kicking and passing drills and test themselves against professionals, with prizes for the winners.
Across the other side of the ground, the current Clan bar will be extended, in addition to the range of beverages available. The Clan bar will also be fully insulated, boast wide screen televisions, and seating, with music before and after games.
“It really will become a proper supporters’ clubhouse - somewhere the fans can hang out and interact, and also be more comfortable rather than standing in the current shed,” he says.
Importantly for any professional sport, new corporate hospitality will also be available in two luxury permanent hardwall marquees with catering by Cava Restaurant.
Pre and post-match dinners for individuals and companies will be available in the area, also attended by players.
“It is an area in which we have struggled in the past. There are many companies in Connacht and up until now they have had little opportunity to interact with us. Having partnered with Cava and Irish Distillers, this new premium area will cater for the corporate sector.”
Alex Saul says the clubhouse side of the pitch is being prioritised.
‘The greyhound facility is fantastic for their use, but is not necessarily conducive for a rugby environment. We want to make the east side, the clubhouse side, the spiritual home of Connacht Rugby.”