“BIGGER and better” concerts are being planned for Thomond Park, stadium CEO John Cantwell has told delegates at a conference in the Clarion Hotel to mark Limerick’s year as European City of Sport.
But death metal and hardcore techno fans might be disappointed to learn these won’t involve acts that might risk “compromising the reputation” of Munster Rugby or Limerick.
Mr Cantwell was speaking on sport and business during a month in which he said Thomond Park would welcome its one millionth visitor - to sporting fixtures, concerts, conferences and other events - since the redeveloped stadium opened in 2008. He admitted that Thomond Park had “played it safe” in putting on veteran performers like Elton John, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart for its early concerts.
“We’ve had all the old guys. That was the way to go. We hadn’t run a concert before. We didn’t need Oasis wrecking the joint at that point in time so we went safe. And you don’t get safer than Elton, Bob and Rod. But they strutted their stuff and put Thomond Park and Limerick on the map as an international venue for concerts. That was the objective: to come out of that having made money and made sure we weren’t on the front pages for the wrong reasons,” Mr Cantwell said.
“The concerts, we hope, are going to get bigger and better and we build on Limerick’s reputation as a venue,” he added.
But any event - whether it was concerts, weddings or even funeral party - was secondary to main business of Thomond Park as home to one of Europe’s top professional rugby clubs.
“The pitch is sacrosanct, the brand is sacrosanct. We don’t do anything to compromise the brand of Munster Rugby, of Thomond Park or of Limerick city.”
While the recession had been affecting its main source of revenue and the “days are gone when Munster fans had to travel to the Millennium Stadium or to France to see the team play”, Mr Cantwell said Munster was still best-selling club in Europe in terms of per capita ticket sales.
In its first two years, events at the new stadium had brought in “€78 million of direct expenditure into the local economy and that will hit over €100 million this year”.
Analysis by Focus Consulting’s Mark O’Connell had shown Thomond Park contributed as much to the economy as a multinational employing 560 people, Mr Cantwell said.
This had been delivered for just over €40 million and for that price Limerick had a stadium ranked as “Grade A” by the IRB, FIFA and UEFA. It was one of only three stadia in the country - and the only one outside Dublin - granted national sporting arena status.
Such was the stadium’s success in purely financial terms that the French rugby and soccer federations have been consulting those involved in the Limerick project as they set about renovating 12 stadia in France, Mr Cantwell said.