City v Country

A BBC feature on the stadiums developed for this ongoing World Cup Championships offers a few pointers for the Maze debate:

“Globally, a new generation of sports stadiums are fast becoming an important symbol of the cultural and economic future of a city and country…Crucially, they will also return to the heart of the cities, after many years of being sited outside the city.”

Top architect Ron Sheard argues that city planners will realise:

“how important these buildings are in city centres”

  • Pete Baker
  • slug

    I missed Aaron’s blog so was glad to be alerted.

    It really would be a shame to build the thing in Maze rather than in the city centre.

    If we can just stop this Maze project then hopefully in a few years it will become obvious that the city is the place.

    The Maze project is weakened but we still have to fight to defeat it.

  • gav

    Very few cities in Europe would have the polarisation that exists within Belfast, were the two communities live seperately in their own areas.

    The idea of building a show piece stadium were all sports could avail of the facilities is an excellent idea and would indeed be a symbol of hope for the future, however the safety of supporters would be just as important.

    Some of the sites mentioned as possible areas for the stadium would not fit this criteria.

    I remain to be convinced that such a site exists within the city boundries.

  • fair_deal

    Cheers pete sorry Aaron if a second bite doesn’t get much debate going again I’ll remove it

  • slug

    I thin the safety of supporters issue is overstated. The centre of a large city is shared between all the city people. It would be important to have good security arrangements for events so that the public feel safe. But this is something other cities can do when opposing teams and supporters arrive. I think a lot of people are saying that we have to go for first best in our new stadium and first best means Belfast.

  • Crataegus

    Covered on another thread.

    The political divide in Belfast is a red herring no one is suggesting a location in the heart of the Shankill, Ardoyne or Falls. The sites include the back of Ormeau Park and Maysfield. Roads can move and you can build over railways and incorporate stations. You can also build over rivers. Its only a matter of engineering. You could locate at the back of Botanic Gardens or in the Cathedral Quarter (Little Patrick Street area). Someone suggested Musgrave Playing fields and there are probably many other possibilities. All of these are potentially good sites with good connections to the bus, road and Rail networks.

    The advantages of Belfast are
    1 It is a symbolic development there would be added prestige if located in Belfast.
    2 To be a financial success the ancillary services have to be fully used, restaurants, bars etc. This just won’t happen at the Maze. Even any additional multi-storey car parking will be used in the overall city demand context.
    3 The economic spin off is much greater in Belfast.
    4 If the Stadium is being used for large concerts Belfast is a better location as there is more hotel accommodation and much better for people arriving by train and plane.
    5 If in Belfast then a substantial body of the spectators will travel to it by public transport so they can go and celebrate afterwards. If at Maysfield virtually all people will arrive by car so the peak usage on the road network will be greater.
    6 Services are available in Belfast. Sewerage, electricity and water.
    7 It is an opportunity to build on a Brown Field site.
    8 It is an opportunity to regenerate an area.

    Advantages of the Maze site.
    1 The government owns it.
    2 Deals with the sites politically baggage.

    Disadvantages of the Maze
    1 Difficult to imagine the development being fully utilized. Ancillary services will struggle unless much of the site ended up as an out of town shopping centre with the planning problems that that would bring.
    2 Lack of character as much of the surface area will be used as car park. Imagine visiting some wet November afternoon when there isn’t a major event!!
    3 Inadequate services and major investment required, particularly in the road network. This will require a number of major road works and the purchase of additional land.
    4 It could be a white elephant and there is no regeneration benefit.

    The government should simple sell the site for housing and use the proceeds to invest in Belfast, that way possibly 3000-4000 houses will be built where there is demand, we also regenerated part of Belfast and get a stadium that will be used and which is likely to be a financial asset rather than a liability.

    Do it right and do it in Belfast, it’s a no brainer.

  • dave

    The Ormeau embankment site is a no-goer, thats for sure.

    They would have to helicopter GAA fans in and out of the ground.

  • fair_deal


    1. The Ormeau Road and Ravenhill Road have substantial Catholic communities (some parts minority others majority.
    2. IIRC Belfast City Council surveys show that Ormeau Park is seen as accessible to both communities.
    3. Maze, Lisburn and surrounding villages and towns have substantial majority Protestant communities. Would it be much safer?

  • dave

    There are two ways onto the embankment

    1. From the lower Ravenhill Road which is 100% unionist and has recently been covered in uvf flags and associated emblems.

    I accept that further up the Ravenhill road (say from Paisley’s church) it is a very nice, affluent and mixed area, there is however no road access from this part of the road, unless you pay Ormeau golf club 20 million to build a road through the golf course.

    The other road route to the embankment is from the Ormeau Road just over the bridge (if coming from the city centre).

    This exact part of the road is seen as the dividing line between Annadale flats and the lower Ormeau and has seen numerous disturbances over the years due to the parades issue.

    These routes obviously pose few problems for football supporters, as the vast majority of their support comes from the unionist community .

    Rugby supporters are pretty much accepted and welcomed by both communities, so idon’t see to many problems in that respect.

    The question is how do 40,000 Gaelic football supporters get to the ground safely.

    Certainly not from the Ravenhill road entrance, on foot or by car.

    Anyone parking around the Ormeau/Annadale entrance would be likely to return to their car to find a windscreen smashed and i can’t see many fans being keen to park their cars in streets covered in paramilitary or other flags, on that part of the road.

    The next thing you know you will have some eejit talking about building a bridge from the lower Ormeau to try and make the area accessable.

    If a sports stadium is to be built(Maze, Belfast..)it has to be equally accessable to all.

  • Crataegus


    The next thing you know you will have some eejit talking about building a bridge from the lower Ormeau to try and make the area accessable.

    Great idea.

    Dave cost of stadium? A couple of hundred million. Cost of foot bridge from say the gasworks area, and of long term benefit? Not a lot. It’s an easy one to solve and if you fear going to the Ormeau Park there really is no hope for you.

    If a sports stadium is to be built(Maze, Belfast..)it has to be equally accessible to all.

    I agree.

    When I read this I was wondering if it is the same Maze I frequently drive past, you know the one deep in the heart of Unionist Lisburn with crap road connections.

    Next thing you know some eejit will suggest building a bridge or underpass across the M1 for traffic from Belfast, a slip road off the motorway to feed traffic in from Dungannon, and what about traffic from Dublin need a few more road works and then that junction on the Lisburn – Moira Road more work needed here, and of course there is the additional land needed, cost well hard to know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is not much change out of £50,000,000. That’s on Roads before you start and what about Sewerage Treatment?

    Personally I think a bit of re gigging around the Maysfield site could produce something really interesting complete with adjoining integrated railway station and restaurands and bars overlooking the Lagan, but would like to see some consideration given to places like the outer Cathedral quarter for reasons of regeneration.

    For once let’s do something right.

  • fair_deal


    You kindly provided an expanded explanaytion of your concerns about the Ormeau site but why do you think the Maze and surrounding area would necessarily be any safer/better e.g there is a loaylist housing estate direcly opposite one of the entrances to the the Maze site?

  • fair_deal


    There is also the option of a site at the Docks in Belfast which already has direct motorway/dual carriageway access. What would your safety concerns be about it?

  • Gentlemen: There is already a good site at Croke Park. GAA apart, Ulster is too weak at all sports to merit a major investment. Also, the GAA apart, these are commercial ventures and are aimed at providing bread and circus spectacles for adults. As in Germany, these arenas have to be multi functional to be able to cate for the odd atheltics meet and the obligatory rock concerts as well as conferences and the like. Athletics affects the design and some of the Germans have got around this well. I wrote a best seller on this;)
    Interestingly, if one looks at Aussie Rules, which is, a la GAA, in a battle against Rugby Union and League, they have some teams based at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and play their Grand Finals there.
    The Grand Final was won this year by Sydney Swans, formerly South Melbourne, who were shunted north for financial reasons.
    It makes no sense for Her Majesty’s Government to turn Belfast into a playpen unless a return on investment can be seen. Kinda like Bertie’s 50m pool. And let’s not even mention the geniuses of the FAI.
    Put the money into Casement Park instead. That way, success will follow.

  • Paul

    “GAA apart, Ulster is too weak at all sports to merit a major investment” ??!!

  • Michael Robinson

    “cost of stadium? A couple of hundred million”

    Probably not even that. It obviously depends on the size and any required civil works for transport etc., but [url=]Belfast City Council’s[/url] brief for a Belfast Stadium is reportedly based on the new []Kingston Communications[/url] stadium in Hull that seats 25,404 and cost approximately £44 million.

  • Crataegus

    I was basing the costs on the Millennium stadium Cardiff which houses 74500 and cost £126,000,000. Croke Park in its various phases holds 82500 and I’m not absolutely sure of the cost but somewhere around £150,000,000. whatever the design and cost it will be in use for generations and give good value but essential to keep ancillary site costs such as motorway flyovers and slip roads to a minimum and site it somewhere sensible.

    From an Ireland perspective I think a large stadium sited in Belfast would help lessen the Primacy of Dublin. We should do this right and ensure that concerts and sports events choose here. If there is going to be a united Ireland and that’s a big IF time to start challenging some of the preconceptions.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    Croke Park in its various phases holds 82500 and I’m not absolutely sure of the cost but somewhere around £150,000,000.

    The GAA say total redevelopment cost over the last 10 years was €260m (stg£180, roughly). But Croker is on a whole other scale to any new northern stadium. And on the scale, is the planned capacity at 42,000 not a tad on the high side? Even a GAA Ulster Final might struggle to fill the place.

    If a suitable site could be identified then I’d say it should be in a city, not 40 miles away in what is basically the middle of nowhere. GAA fans have been moaning about getting in and out of Clones for as long as I can remember, how would the Maze be much of an improvement on the traffic front?

  • Crataegus


    Isn’t there a problem with other sports using Croke?