Football’s coming home as new-look Markets Field reopens

Colm Kinsella

Reporter:

Colm Kinsella

The Markets Field, which has been redeveloped at a cost of �4.5 million, reopens this Friday night with the clash of Limerick FC and Drogheda Utd in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, 7.45pm
THE new-look Markets Field, redeveloped at a cost of €4.5 million, is a Category 2 UEFA stadium with a capacity to cater for 3,075 spectators.

THE new-look Markets Field, redeveloped at a cost of €4.5 million, is a Category 2 UEFA stadium with a capacity to cater for 3,075 spectators.

The stadium provides seating for 1,350 spectators in the main stand and an additional 350 seats for away supporters in a demountable stand.

The remaining fans attending fixtures at the Markets Field will be standing around the ground.

Construction work on the venue began in earnest around Christmas time.

The playing surface at the venue was laid 18 months ago and there are six-and-a-half kilometres of drains gone in underneath it.

The venue, owned by the Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership (LEDP), has hosted various sporting events since the mid-1880s when the Limerick Cycling Club held races there.

George Lee, of the LEDP, who is project leader on the Markets Field redevelopment, said: “Our building programme has been bang on target. There were expectations and dates put forward. I think when people look around here on Friday night and they look around the place, they will say yes we were right not to go with the March deadline. I think the result in waiting will be spectacular. I would hope Limerick people will feel the same way.

“The cost of this project will be of the order of between €4 million and €4.5 million. That includes the purchase price which LEDP were put in funds by the McManus Charitable Foundation. That was about €1.6million to €1.7 million. The LEDP themselves have put upwards of €500,000 into the place. Government funding came in the shape of about €1.5 million. The rest was made up through other donations from the McManus Foundation and other sources.

“It is fully paid for. One of the beauties about this is that we are opening the Markets Field debt free. That allows us the luxury of being able to establish the ground and put in place a business plan without having the pressure of ensuring the mortgage is paid every month. That means we can take a much longer term strategic view.

“This ground is for the people of Limerick, it is not just for soccer, but for every sport and other activities as well.

“Obviously, we have licensing criteria and we have to be careful of the pitch.

“Friday’s match is selling very well, I believe.

“I would guess we will have a full house for the opening fixture. It would be fantastic, I think.

“Talking to Martin Russell, the Limerick FC manager, over the past couple of days, he really, really wants to get a result here on Friday night. It would be a fantastic homecoming if we could get the first three points in the bag.

“To be so close now to the first fixture is just amazing. I have alternated between desperate terror and sheer elation. Professionally, it is the culmination of something for me, but on a personal level it is really almost like a homecoming in my own head. I know it is that way for so many people across Limerick, but to have been here and have seen it in the days when it was myself and a little bit of rag worth growing on the bank and now to look around and see 80 guys putting the finishing touches here today to what is going to be an iconic Limerick stadium, it is hugely exciting.”