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Project for Tallaght Stadium

Project for Tallaght Stadium: a public arena.

Bik van der Pol

public arena by Bik van der Pol

While researching Tallaght, its history and its vast urban developments, we noticed a half finished area of what appeared to be Tallaght stadium: a nice green pitch, a half finished concrete stand, and fences all around. Nothing seemed to happen here, and this already for quite a while, though this site was located in the very heart of Tallaght, where new construction developments - that rapidly developed in hotels, shops, entertainment, housing and office facilities - were located around this silent, empty site. A contemporary ruin, where time seemed to have frozen.

After some inquires, this site appeared to be a major conflict zone, in which two sports clubs -soccer club Shamrock Rovers and the local Gaelic football club Thomas Davis-, the community and South Dublin County Council were the main players. The construction of the stadium started already back in October 2000, but due to financial problems and legal disputes between the two clubs, the construction had been delayed. Both clubs claimed the stadium as theirs, and a long period of court cases was the result.

One could say that this site was, already long before its actual use, firmly grounded in Tallaght.

Like in many other cities, sports grounds are regularly moved around because of urban growth. Usually sports fields are located at the fringes of cities, which is generally less expensive land. But then, when cities start to grow, fringes become valuable and sports grounds are in the way of urban planning departments.

tallaght stadium site

Here in Tallaght this does not seem to be any different. For many years Thomas Davis played on a field, known as 'The Graveyard' in Old Tallaght Village, before relocating in the early 1980s to a green field site on the Kiltipper Road. The club continued to use the Graveyard, together with public pitches in Sean Walsh Park, Dodder Park and Aylesbury throughout the 1990s. Then Sean Walsh Park fields were redeveloped into a lake and landscaped areas, with plans for a stadium to be there also.

Shamrock Rovers were founded in Dublin in 1901. The club has been without a permanent home since 1987, when a former director sold their ground, Glenmalure Park in Dublin. Since then they play their home games in Tolka Park in Drumcondra in Dublin.

please do not enter

South Dublin County Council initially decided that the stadium would be multi-use with a soccer-sized pitch, and that the Shamrock Rovers would play in the new facility. This decision was reversed in 2006 whenSouth Dublin County Council wantedto include a Senior GAA pitch as well, which would require a bigger size pitch. The council reverted back to the original plans again after the Minister for Sport informed the council that he would not fund the stadium unless it was designated as soccer only. Junior GAA games could be accommodated in the current design; this would not require an increased pitch size.

A row of court cases followed. Thomas Davis initially objected to the original planning permission ofTallaght Community Stadiumalmost ten years ago, and tried to overturn the council decision that assigned the sports stadium for soccer only. In High Court in March 2007 it was decided that the design of the Tallaght Stadium should be changed, stating that Thomas Davis did indeed have a 'substantial interest' and grounds for re-vision of planning decisions. But another court case followed, and after so many years and a lot of disputes innewspapersand in the local community, it was recently decided that the Shamrock Rovers should be the ones to play this stadium.Construction is expected to be complete in time for the 2009 FAI Premier Division. The stadium will be owned an operated by South Dublin County Council with Shamrock Rovers as the main tenants.

In general, history is usually very quickly erased from the memory of the community in areas were new developments are taking place. The controversial history of this stadium runs the danger of becoming a ‘bad memory’ in the heart of Tallaght, while it aims to be a public place of shared interest. We feel that this history should not just be erased. There for we are developing an event in this arena, taking the club motto of Thomas Davis Nascann Dúshlán Daoine (A Challenge Unites People) as ‘leitmotiv’. With the help of Dublin based artist Barbara Nealon with whom we closely work together, interviews with different parties and players will form the basic material for our work and a publication, which will include (fictional and factual) stories about the stadium, sports and history in relation to issues of re- and dis-placement in relation to urban planning.

‘Public Arena’ is a tryptic using three distinct mediums, which explores, animates and celebrates the socio-political journey of Tallaght Stadium.

‘Public Arena’

· a video film (33 min.), made in collaboration with students of Tallaght Community School. The script for this work was compiled from ver batum interviews with people from all sides of the negotiations of the Tallaght Stadium initiative. The video work is accompanied by a publication (designed by David Bennewith) including the script for the work.

· a neon public art work based on the Thomas Davis club motto: Nascann Dúshlán Daoine (Challenge Unites People)

· a live installation and photo shoot with the enormous ball in Tallaght Stadium

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