Floodlit games in Austin Stack Park, Tralee
By Willie O'Connor, P.R.O. Kerry Co. Board.
Saturday evening November 3rd 2001 marked a milestone in the history of Gaelic Games in Kerry when the first game was played under floodlights in Austin Stack Park, Tralee. Ballymacelligott and John Mitchels had the honour of being the first two teams to play under the new floodlights and there have been very favourable assessments from the players, the officials and the spectators for this new venture. The referee for the game was former All-Ireland Final referee, Tommy Sugrue. It was the semi-final of the Tralee District Board Senior Football Championship and it finished with both teams level on the scoreboard.
The floodlighting system cost €317,435 (IR£250,000) to install and the project has been very generously granted aided by both Munster Council and Government funding. In fact the grant aid from the Munster Council formed part of the Council's Millennium Year Project for field and grounds development. The installation and erection of the pylons and lights was done by the ESB in association with Phillips. It involved the erection of four pylons, two on each side of the ground and the lighting of the stand. There are five rows of four lamps on top of each of the four pylons; each lamp is 2Kw. and four lamps off the stand, making a total output of 164Kw. 550 LUX. Each lamp is strategically focused on a specific area of the pitch.
It is a major forward step for Gaelic Games in the county enabling games to be played under lights from September and right up to the month of May. Even during the months of April and May as the evenings are getting brighter games can start at a time that is more convenient for both players and spectators.
The second game to be played under the floodlights was The Railway Cup Football Semi-final between Munster and Leinster on Saturday November 10th. This was the first time a game organised by Central Council was played under floodlights. The Kerry Colleges Senior Football Final between Coláiste na Sceilge, Cahersiveen and Tralee CBS was played under floodlights as was the Cumann na mBunscol Final between Tralee CBS Primary School and Holy Family Boys Primary School. This was a very worthwhile opportunity for both the Primary and Post Primary School players, giving them the experience at first hand of playing a game under floodlights. As many of their parents and relatives came to see them play it served as an occasion for them to see for themselves this wonderful new venture for the GAA in the Kingdom.
The venture has proved itself to be very successful and it has given a great impetus especially to the Tralee District Board Senior Football Championship, which was played entirely under floodlights last year. There was a big increase in attendances for this championship from previous years and it is widely acknowledged that the reason for this added interest was that the games were played under floodlights. Those Saturday evening games have attracted patrons that might not otherwise have attended had these games been played on a Sunday afternoon.
When the redevelopment of Austin Stack Park was first mooted in 1988 there was provision made then for the installation of floodlighting at a later stage of the redevelopment with the provision of the ducts that would enable the floodlighting to be installed without any major disruption to the grounds or pitch. This showed great foresight at the time when the planning for further improvements to the grounds at the second phase of the redevelopment were fully recognised and planned for in 1988. This forward planning at the first phase of the redevelopment made the work of installing the floodlights happen last autumn without having to close down the pitch.
The installation of the floodlighting is just one part of the second phase of the redevelopment of the facilities at Austin Stack Park to be completed last year. The extension to the concrete terracing at the railway end of the ground has greatly increased the crowd capacity at the ground. The building of a new media facility specifically for radio and television broadcasting has enabled the provision of separate booths for live radio broadcasts and for live television or recording. The boundary wall between the grounds and the railway line also had to be rebuilt. All this work was completed over the past two years at a cost of almost € 1 million. The Kerry County Board is very much indebted to the financial support given by The Munster Council, Central Council and Government funding towards the redevelopment of Austin Stack Park since 1988.
The improvements to the facilities at Austin Stack Park since 1988 and the completion of this second phase during the past two years has greatly enhanced the headquarters of the Association in Kerry as a major sporting venue. The response from our patrons and locally has been very positive and the floodlighting of the pitch has been a very useful and beneficial means of promoting and expanding the interest in our games in the town of Tralee and its hinterland.