Trinity has completed the purchase of the Iveagh Grounds sports facility in Drimnagh after a three-year negotiating process.
In a press statement, Provost Patrick Prendergast said that “sport is at the heart of the Trinity experience” and that the College “look forward to presenting the development plans for the sports facility to our students, staff, alumni and external partners in the near future”. He explained that “the acquisition of this great sports facility will enable us further in doing this.”
The property, which was previously occupied by the Guinness Athletic Union (GAU) before Trinity’s acquisition of the property, was bought from Diageo Ireland. Iveagh Grounds is a 17-acre facility which includes soccer, rugby, GAA and hockey pitches, as well as a pitch-and-putt course and a bowling green.
Although the grounds belonged to Diageo, it had been occupied by the GAU since the 1920s, with a key sticking point in negotiations involving the role of the GAU at the facility after the deal’s completion. GAU affiliated-clubs which had been using the facility include St James Gaels GAA Club, Guinness Ladies Hockey Club, Guinness Rugby Club and St James’s Gate Football Club.
Over the three years of negotiations, the GAU increasingly felt like it was caught in the middle of cumbersome talks between the College and Diageo. Diageo had been supporting the GAU financially prior to the deal’s completion, paying out €200,000 to €300,000 annually. As part of the deal, the debt owed by the GAU to Diageo, which stands at well over €2 million, will be written off, and the multinational company will make a one-off payment of €250,000 to the GAU to help the club through the transition period.
The GAU will continue to have occupancy of the facility, and will pay in excess of €200,000 for the continued use of the facilities and the occupancy of the clubhouse bar, which it will run under a 20-year licence.
Negotiations were lengthy and often characterised by frustrations on the side of the GAU, with the club’s chairman, Eddie Tyrell, complaining to The University Times, in November, of being kept in the dark over several details about Trinity’s plans for the facility. The GAU claimed it was vital that the club was given information on the deal before an agreement was signed.
Tyrell told The University Times that “he had never seen anything like it”, referring to the difficulty of communicating with Trinity over the course of negotiations. WK Nowlan Real Estate Advisors acted as intermediary between Trinity, Diageo and the GAU for the duration of the deal.
In a press statement, Kieran Gowing, Finance Director of Diageo Ireland, expressed the company’s “delight” at the deal’s completion. He stated that Trinity “have a great reputation and record of operation sporting facilities and working with community and other groups to maximise their benefit for both students and the wider community”.
Trinity has yet to confirm details of many of its plans for the facility, with the possibility that the College may convert several grass pitches at the facility into all-weather surfaces. Speaking to The University Times over email, in November, the College Press Officer Caoimhe Ni Lochlainn confirmed that “development plans for the new sports facility will be put in place post-acquisition”.
Speaking to The University Times today, Tyrell, who is Chairman of the GAU,said that the deal was signed last Thursday, and said that Kevin Moloney, who was appointed Trinity’s Outdoor Sports Facilities Manager in February, is one of a number of officers of the College who have already moved on-site. Tyrell stated that “everything is not going to plan” and that the GAU has had problems in its dealings with Trinity since the College moved its operations onto the site.