New Dundalk CEO Mark Devlin has spoken of his desire to see Oriel Park upgraded.
Speaking on the Between The Stripes LOI podcast last week, the former Brentford and QPR chief executive said he was focused on delivering both short and long term plans to improve the much criticised Carrick Road venue.
Devlin, who replaced Mal Brannigan at Dundalk in April, said he hoped to see ticketing and retail systems improve at the club with an eventual upgrade of the ground hopefully leading to bigger and better attendances.
He said: “We’ve got the product on the pitch. I’m sure you’ll talk to me about facilities at Oriel Park and it’s not something that hasn’t shocked me since moving over to Ireland.
“It’s something I have spoken to the board about and I do feel we need to put in place a long-term plan to improve the facilities at Oriel both in the short and long-term. By that I mean there are things I think ought to be relatively simple to achieve.
“I’m no construction expert but we have already started the ball rolling to see what can and can’t be done at Oriel in its current guise. Obviously then I hope there are the ambitions to improve it much further than that as well but there’s a lot of work that has to go on before that.
“It’s not as simple as someone saying they want to do it but I think the will is there and I definitely understand that the better facilities that we have, coupled with the kind of team we’ve got, the football we play and the passion of the supporters, I would like to see our attendances doubling and tripling as we go through the years. There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be really, really ambitious about driving attendances. We want to work with the community to get kids more involved, females more involved and families more involved.
“To do that we know we’re going to have to make improvements across the board both in the facilities and how we sell tickets and how easy we make it for people to come and interact with the club and engage with the club.”
Devlin, who started to oversee the construction of Brentford’s new stadium before departing the Championship side last December, said there were pros and cons to potentially developing Oriel Park.
“There’s so much space at Oriel. There’s an area where the toilets have gone into that we can’t really do much with other than keep tidy because we need to keep that area free for emergency vehicles and broadcast partners but around the other side of the ground, in fairness to the owners they have invested heavily in the YDC and we hope to be able to open that and move over into the YDC over the next two or three months.
“I’d like to see how we can improve facilities behind the other goal and also there are too many open areas. The stadium is open to the elements and if I was a dad or a mum and wanted to bring the kids along; if it looked anything like a wet, windy and horrible evening, I’d have to think long and hard about bringing them to watch football at Oriel, however passionate I was, because there’s every chance they’re going to get soaked.
“I’m sure there are further improvements that we can make. It’s all going to be small incremental steps and then obviously my job is to put in place a long-term plan and convince the owners to buy into it.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we do have owners who are incredibly enthusiastic about the club and very supportive about what we’re trying to achieve. I think that’s been seen by the level of investment on the field and, coming from North America, they know the importance of good facilities for supporters, both current and if we’re going to attract more supporters in the future.
“I think there are some exciting times ahead. We’ll make the small steps, hopefully as quickly as possible, and all I would ask is for a degree of patience as we put into place a realistic plan of what can be achieved in terms of making more major improvements at Oriel. There’s a lot of work to be done and consultation to do before we get to that but be assured, it is on the radar.”
Devlin also reiterated that it was the club’s desire to remain at Oriel Park rather than develop a new facility elsewhere.
“The club have previously done some work and feasibility studies on moving away from Oriel. The sense, as I understand it, was that the area at Oriel is the best place: it’s near the train station, it’s just outside the town centre.
“The only other option really would be to move to a greenfield site where public transport wouldn’t be quite so good and there would be a lot of driving involved.
“The area at Oriel is probably the right site but it’s about what can be achieved there because there are some real challenges. Everyone enters from one side of the stadium and has to move around, that’s not always easy to work with and operate so can we open it up at all?
“I’d like to think there is a creative scheme out there that is both cost sensible and realistic. What I don’t want to do is raise any false hope that we’re either going to completely rebuild Oriel or move from Oriel, because we’re miles away from that, but there is an understanding that we need to improve facilities,” he said.