Dundalk FC chairman Bill Hulsizer has said the club will require grant supports to fulfil the long standing ambition of upgrading Oriel Park.
Qualification to the Europa League group stages has once again brought the dilapidated state of the Carrick Road venue into the spotlight, with Filippo Giovagnoli’s side unable to host home matches there as it fails to meet UEFA requirements.
With over €4 million income guaranteed from the club’s second group stage qualification in five seasons, fans had been hopeful that it would lead to a long awaited upgrade of a venue which has virtually remained untouched for more than half a century since a major redevelopment in 1966.
However speaking to The Argus at the weekend, Hulsizer admitted that club owners PEAK6 would be unwilling to cough up the full amount for an upgrade and would need financial support from one or a number of parties including Louth County Council, the FAI and Government.
“Would I love to see a Category 4 stadium half way between Belfast and Dublin? I absolutely would but do I think that we’ll win enough money at Dundalk to build a stadium in the next five years? No.
“We’ll make some improvements – we’ve already made a bunch – but our goal is if we invest money it’s to invest it in something that we’ll get a return on.”
While club owners PEAK6 have a current portfolio value of over $23.4 billion, Hulsizer said it would not make sense for the Chicago-based investment firm to pump money into a stadium project without having support behind them from various sectors.
“We need support to make it happen,” he said of any potential upgrade.
“Investing in a stadium is probably the worst thing a club can do because it’s just property and it’s not an asset unless it can make money. I don’t know that Oriel Park is situated where it can make money. It’s not big enough.”
Asked was there a ball-park figure to bring Oriel up to UEFA Category 4 standards, the chairman said: “If there is I don’t know what it is.
“We’ve had architects look at it and we’re in the process now of getting other people to look at it.
“People look at it and say well they’re getting €3 million from Europe but let me tell you when all is said and done of that €3 million less than half will reach the coffers.”
While Hulsizer’s comments will undoubtedly come as a blow to many fans hoping for a long overdue stadium upgrade, he said the club had approached the FAI for support for a future upgrade project.
“The FAI is working hard to get a major grant to develop stadiums outside of Dublin and we have put our wishes and hat in the ring just like Finn Harps and Cork and others. I don’t know for a fact that either of them did but every team in the League of Ireland was asked to submit what their needs would be for improving the infrastructure.”