Progressive north-west football club reveals ambitious plans

Sligo Rovers have today published a detailed masterplan that includes a proposed multi-million euro redevelopment of The Showgrounds stadium as well as the construction of an academy hub for the north-west region of the country.

The plan has a detailed analysis of the economic, social and financial impact that the proposed development could have on the club, the county and greater north-west region, as well as the footballing impact.

Currently there are a number of Mayo players involved in the first team and also across various academy teams at Sligo Rovers.

The Football Association of Ireland and Sligo County Council have both endorsed the plan, which proposed a redeveloped Showgrounds with a seated capacity of 6,000, surpassing all the requirements of a UEFA Category 3 stadium.

As well as alterations to the existing Tracey Avenue and Railway End stands and the construction of new stands at the Church Hill Road end and Jinks Avenue, there will be new floodlights, turnstiles, hospitality spaces, shops, corporate and sponsors facilities, offices, meeting rooms, upgraded media facilities, multiple changing rooms and a gym.

The stadium pitch would be extended, with the playing surface changed to a hybrid comprising 95% natural grass.

The overall project as complied by Rhatigan Architects comes in at a cost of €17.3 million.

In announcing the proposals today, Sligo Rovers said: “The masterplan reflects the club’s ambition to expand, as well as trying to maximise the potential of the north-west area to develop more local and international footballers.

“This season, over 50% of the registered Sligo Rovers first-team squad has been developed from the academy, with an average of 40% in each match day squad.

“Through this development, and the growth of commercial areas of the football club, Sligo Rovers aim to greatly enhance the opportunities for future generations of young male and female footballers and increase employment in the football industry in Ireland.

“This masterplan defines the direction of Sligo Rovers as a community owned club and is centrally focused on enhancing the match day experience for fans. Outside of match day, a pavilion and plaza area outside of The Showgrounds would include space for cafes, restaurants, meeting spaces and business units.”

The club has a provisional agreement with Sligo Rugby to facilitate games in the redeveloped Showgrounds, with Rovers keen to open up the facilities for community. The Bit o’ Red are also willing to host provincial matches for regional use for the betterment of north-west sport.

In addition, Sligo Rovers is actively seeking a sit of around eight acres within the Sligo area for the development of a home for the expanding academy. The proposed academy base would have three playing pitches with associated dugouts and a single storey building containing dressing rooms and other facilities.

Vision

Speaking at the unveiling of the masterplan, Sligo Rovers chairman Tommy Higgins said: “Today we present a vision that has been created not just over the last year but through the growth and enhancement of the club in its modern existence.

“We see unlimited potential in Sligo Rovers Football Club. Today the football represents a beacon and focal point of the community, something we have worked tirelessly to achieve.

“We also have a youth set-up which is developing countless footballers going on to play senior League of Ireland football each year, while still being in its infancy. Prior to Covid-19, we had 11 players involved with Ireland at underage level during one calendar year and our desire is to invest further in the area.

“In the future we want to develop a facility that can raise standards even further across the board. That is, by improving football players through investment in coaching, teams and the experience of the supporter to enhance our attendance figures.

“As a community club we also seek to bring further benefits to our local economy and provide the opportunity to young boys aspiring to become the next Seamus Coleman to live out their dream, and for girls who need more front of house women wearing the Bit o’ Red of Sligo Rovers as soon as possible.”

FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill added: “We talk a lot about football in the community, not just here in Ireland but across the globe, and Sligo Rovers are standard bearers in this regard.

“I am delighted to see the range of this development plan, which reflects the club’s standing in the Sligo community in a fitting manner. Such development is a cornerstone of our vision for the future of all our League of Ireland clubs. Well done to all involved with this project.”

Walter Holleran, FAI head of facility development, has promised to support the plan. He said: “This ambitious development plan from Sligo Rovers clearly shows a footballing venue can be more than just a playing field for 22 players.

“Great credit must go to all involved to Sligo Rovers for their approach and visionary concept. The FAI unanimously supports this development plan and will continue to support its progress into development.”

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