This Summer Croke Park will accommodate in the region of 650,000 people and there won’t be a sliotar or football in sight, writes Nickey Brennan.
Last weekend One Direction took over the Jones Road venue for three nights. In late July the American singer, Garth Brooks, will entertain fans, not just from Ireland, but from numerous countries.
Hosting full-house concerts is financially rewarding for the GAA, but it is equally so for many businesses around the country. Most hotels in the Dublin area are booked out for concert dates, while restaurants and other food outlets will benefit greatly too.
Buses descended on Dublin on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, which was good news for public and private transport companies. I am sure Irish Rail picked up extra business also.
It is fair to assume that family cars containing many excited teenagers drove from all over Ireland also, and will do so again towards the end of July (this time without the teenagers). I hope the parents who joined their children at the three concerts last weekend have recovered!
Those three One Direction concerts brought new challenges for Croke Park and the concert promoters. On most occasions in Croke Park males significantly outnumber females. The reverse was the case last weekend. That scenario necessitated the installation of additional services.
The biggest challenge, though, was managing such a young audience, particularly as some would have travelled to Dublin without an accompanying adult. Behind the scenes much work was undertaken to ensure the operation ran smoothly.
While the Garth Brooks booking is for five nights, it will attract a more mature audience. Last weekend’s concerts would has been a first visit to a Croke Park event for many. Those attending the Brooks concerts are likely to be seasoned concert-goers.
I suspect there are people in the GAA who are not enamoured at the thought of concerts in Croke Park. The reality is that the stadium must generate revenue on non-match days. Thankfully it has an impressive reputation internationally as a concert venue.
Garth Brooks said as much when announcing his return to Ireland. That endorsement is not made lightly and will influence other artists to consider Ireland and Croke Park when on world tours.
A big concern when hosting concerts in Croke Park is the impact such events have on the pitch, particularly as they generally coincide with the main GAA championship season.
The area being used by the stage tends to get the roughest treatment, and usually necessitates a full relaying of the turf. That process is well established, and a fleet of refrigerated trucks descended on Croke Park on Monday with new turf which will be installed by the time people read this article. The new turf is manufactured to the same colour and specification as the existing pitch.
Hosting eight concerts in 2014 is a bonus for the GAA. I realise some issues arose with Croke Park’s neighbours, but I expect the relevant matters will be sorted. Croke Park is conscious of its responsibility to neighbours and invested heavily in various community activities and facilities in the area.
The real beneficiaries from the eight concerts will be GAA units at large. Already the GAA has announced that it will refund some membership fees to clubs during the year.
Counties will also benefit financially in one way or another, while the additional finance will also allow the GAA to further upgrade the facilities in Croke Park for match day patrons and conference clients. Croke Park is one of the top conference venues in Ireland and while the conferencing business in general experienced challenges in recent years, it is steadily re-emerging as the economy begins its long overdue improvement.
The eight concerts, plus the American College football game in August, will have no impact on GAA championship fixtures (bar a possible Leinster senior football final replay. That is due to the skill of the Croke Park stadium staff and the advisors who have the pitch renovation work down to a fine art.