Demand for new Connacht Rugby stadium continues to grow

Off the pitch CEO Willie Ruane says plans on a new stadium are progressing, but there is frustration at the speed of developments.

Demand for a new stadium for Connacht has grown exponentially since the Pro 12 success in 2015 and a European Champions Cup last term.

Ruane says the organisation understands fans' eagerness to have a plan set in stone but states it is important that no stone is left unturned before Connacht proceeds with the project.

" [We are] frustrated as we would like to move it quicker. We are very conscious that we are dealing with stakeholders who are obviously concerned. They want to make sure they get their decisions right as well so we are working to a certain extent at their pace. We have done a huge amount of due diligence on it. We are actually moving into another stage of it and we will be engaging with fans and some finer points and what a stadium should deliver.

"It is frustrating but it does not dampen our eagerness to push on and make it a reality, and that is the most important thing. We have an opportunity to develop a stadium that the people of Connacht can be really proud about. From a regional development perspective we have an opportunity to provide a facility and develop a facility which is consistent to what is around the rest of the country. The people of the west of Ireland deserve it.

"We will be looking for feedback from various stakeholder groups with regards to some of the composition stuff with regards to the stadium so you have a generic sense what a stadium should be. But you need to be much more specific for a stadium to be in Connacht; what does it feel and look like? That is something we will be delving deeper into and it will be a considerable amount of work."

The Sportsground which can hold up to 7,800, saw only 4,107 supporters show up on Saturday evening - the lowest attendance in the league at the weekend - as Connacht hosted Glasgow Warriors in horrendous conditions.

The complete exposure of the Bohermore and College Road terraces resulted in two sides of the ground being virtually empty as Galway was battered with a thunderstorm.

The ex-Connacht player says shelter for supporters is a big priority for any new stadium, but the all round experience of what Connacht can offer the casual supporter and families is crucial to increasing and maintaining attendances.

"We have some real die hard fans and they will stand out in any conditions right through the winter and they are incredibly loyal and dedicated supporters. But there are other people who are coming to Connacht for the very first time and we are competing for their leisure spend. Someone who comes to a Connacht game two or three times, what they expect to experience is something we need to take very seriously as well and that is broader that what happens on the pitch. Making sure we are able to cater for kids in a really fun way. Making sure we can cater for a growing number of women supporters and families.

"[Looking at] The corporate hospitality. Businesses across Galway and the province would love to experience this offering. We offer it to a certain extent but we want to take it to another level and that is something we would like to expand as well. It isn't just about what happens on the pitch, and it is not that you want to turn it into something that is removed from the pitch but something that absolutely adds to the overall occasion."

The Mayo man cites location as being a huge factor in where the new stadium will be constructed. Three locations have been identified with Eamonn Deacy Park and a stadium on the Docks being put forward alongside the province's current home of the Sportsground.

According to Ruane the ideal location will be found near the city centre as crowds can soak up the atmosphere of Galway before strolling to the ground for the match.

"When we played Grenoble [two years ago], they had a lovely stadium which was a bit further out. But they had amazing public infrastructure all the way out to it. There was a tram that went right to the door of the stadium and plenty of buses. We do not have that public infrastructure once you go outside the immediate perimeter of Galway city.

"We would like to maintain that city centre feel where possible, because that is very much a key part of what we regard as an experience of attending a Connacht rugby match. The idea of having a stadium on the very edges of the city, while it can work in many locations and can work with regards to parking, it also takes away from the experience many people have become accustomed to and I would like to believe that we will overcome that difficulty."


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