Belfast Telegraph

Stadium gets Maze go-ahead
Prison site chosen ahead of Belfast

By Gavin Mairs and David Gordon
05 November 2004

The proposed new sports stadium for Northern Ireland will be built at the former Maze Prison site, it can be revealed today.

It is understood that the 360-acre site has pipped Belfast Lough foreshore and Titanic Quarter as the location for the state-of-the- art development.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned that the Government's Strategic Investment Board (SIB), in conjunction with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, plumped for the Maze site largely because it is on cheap, government-owned land, although it also has the benefit of good transport infrastructure and plenty of room for parking facilities.

The issue is understood to have been discussed at a high level meeting involving Downing Street, top civil servants and the four main parties from the province last week.

An announcement, which had been expected several weeks ago, is now expected within a month.

A verdict in favour of the Maze will delight Lisburn City Council which has been campaigning strongly for the location.

Arguments in favour of the site include its accessibility to the M1 motorway and Belfast-Dublin railway line, and the fact that it would not suffer the traffic congestion problems of a Belfast stadium.

Lisburn councillor, Seamus Close, today said: "The development of a sports stadium would attract other investments.

"A blank canvas is the most suitable for a project of this size. With 360 acres, the Maze site has the space to accommodate a wide range of other facilities."

But former Belfast Mayor, Jim Rodgers, a member of the Northern Ireland Sports Council, today underlined his personal doubts about the Maze option.

"My fear is that it could be the biggest white elephant ever," he said. "I believe the stadium should be in Belfast, Northern Ireland's capital city, where there is the necessary infrastructure.

"People attending sporting events will want somewhere to go afterwards."

Mr Rodgers said he did not expect the SIB to plump for the Maze alone.

"I believe it will issue a list of possible sites. But the Maze has always been the favourite because it is owned by the Government," he added.

It's understood the formal announcement of the SIB's findings is only being held up by political machinations regarding a proposed Maze prison museum.

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