Northern Ireland news

Casement Park: Key points of GAA's new design proposals for west Belfast stadium

Stephen McGeehan, Casement Park project sponsor, and project director Rory Miskelly at the unveiling. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

:: Design: The new design includes a bowl-shaped canopy made of a translucent polycarbonate, giving a look similar to the Aviva stadium in Dublin.

 Its shape ensures terracing supporters have the same shelter as seated spectators.

There is also scope for the canopy to be lit up in different colours on special occasions in a similar way to Belfast City Hall. 

The height, scale, surface area and capacity are all reduced from the previous design.

 At its highest point the new stadium is almost 40ft (12m) lower. The roof at his highest point is just over half the height of the existing floodlights.

:: Capacity: The proposed capacity of 34,500 is just 3,500 lower than in the original plans. But unlike the previous all-seater design, the total now includes standing terracing for around 8,500 people. 

Residents who successfully challenged the initial plans have previously maintained that the site can only cater for up to 25,000 spectators. 

The GAA wants a stadium capable of hosting provincial finals which can attract more than 30,000.

It also hopes to host up to five "major non-sporting events" a year such as concerts. 

A larger stadium is also considered a key part of an All-Ireland bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, announced jointly in 2014 by the Stormont executive and Irish government.

:: Safety: The GAA says it now has a "360 degree entrance and exit strategy". 

The reduced scale has allowed for a new 'circulation zone' around the perimeter of the stadium covering an area of about two acres (9,000m sq). 

This has given the design team room to create five side exits as well as Andersonstown Road. However, the GAA has ruled out buying up and demolishing any houses surrounding the Casement site. 

It means the site will still have just three exit routes onto the residential streets of Mooreland Park, Owenvarragh Park and Mooreland Crescent. 

The GAA says it has also gained control of a derelict strip of land between Moorland Park and Stockmans Lane to use for stadium access in emergencies. 

Safety concerns have focused on how a new stadium would cope if Andersonstown Road, where most spectators would exit, was unavailable due to a suspect device, road crash or gas leak.

 An assessment by police, fire and ambulance service officials earlier this year estimated that only around 18,000 people could safely evacuate a redeveloped Casement within eight minutes in this scenario.

:: Transport: The proposals set out a series of measures aimed at encouraging GAA fans to ditch their cars and use other means of transport to the new stadium.

A park-and-ride facility will be opened at the Maze/Long Kesh site and in Belfast's Titanic Quarter for higher capacity events.

The GAA says it will also encourage clubs to organise travel for their members by measures such as integrating travel choices with ticket sales.

It will also promote the use of existing public transport park-and-ride facilities and identify larger clubs that could act as 'pick-up' points for smaller clubs who may not organise their own coach travel.

For those that do travel by car, the proposals say GAA fans could use Boucher playing fields to park before walking to the stadium during events attracting more than 18,000 spectators.

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