VISITORS to Croke Park may soon enjoy the thrill of jumping off the stadium’s roof onto Hill 16 under plans being proposed by the GAA.
A sitting of An Bord Pleanála in Dublin heard yesterday that the construction of a roof walkway on Croke Park would create a "unique" tourist attraction which would allow 360-degree views of the city and many of its famous landmarks.
Under plans developed by the GAA, visitors on the proposed Croke Park Rooftop Tour will also be able to abseil or zipline from the 35m roof.
Croke Park stadium manager, Peter McKenna said the project would offer visitors "a thrill in a safe environment" and an "OMG experience".
However, representatives of local residents walked out of yesterday’s hearing in protest at the board’s refusal to adjourn the hearing after they had requested that the planning authority investigate alleged irregularities.
A residents group, the Croke Park Streets Committee, said it was withdrawing "under protest". The group’s spokesman, Eamonn O’Brien, said the hearing was being boycotted by all residents in protest at their treatment under the planning system.
However, Mr O’Brien declined to details the group’s complaint.
In the past, residents have expressed concern at how all 55 applications for planning permission made by Croke Park in recent years have been approved.
They have also criticised An Bord Pleanála for approving a handball and sports centre, despite a recommendation by the board’s inspector to refuse it planning permission.
The GAA estimates that the rooftop facility will attract between 8,000 and 19,000 visitors a year, with about one quarter of these taking the opportunity to abseil or zipline from the roof.
Permission for the project was granted with 13 conditions by Dublin City Council last April but is under appeal by residents.
Planning consultant Brendan Buck said the GAA was concerned that a condition stipulating opening hours for the roof should be 9am to 6pm was "unduly restrictive".
Mr Buck said it was hoped the facility would attract some of the estimated 89,000 people who visit the GAA museum in Croke Park each year.
He claimed the rooftop walkway would need at least 8,000 visitors per annum to make it viable.
There will be five viewing platforms, including a pitch-viewing cabin with a glass floor.
Mr Buck said concerns about visitors being able to overlook local schools and houses had been addressed by telescopes being fixed at certain angles.
He told the hearing that the project was "a tourism legacy for current and future generations".
Mr McKenna said Croke Part was a "must-see" facility, and that the project would add to Dublin’s attractiveness as a tourist destination and would provide six new full-time jobs and 10 part-time jobs, as well as 50 jobs during the construction stage.