The third-largest stadium in Europe
Croke Park is a GAA stadium. Named in honour of Archbishop Thomas Croke, it is often called Croker by some GAA fans and locals. It serves both as the principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Since 1891 the site has been used primarily by the GAA to host Gaelic games, most notably the annual All-Ireland finals in football and hurling. Both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2003 Special Olympics, as well as numerous music concerts by major international acts, have been held in the stadium. During the construction of the Aviva Stadium, Croke Park hosted games played by the Ireland national rugby union team and the Republic of Ireland national football team.
You need about 35 minutes to walk to the Croke Park Stadium from the Dublin Citi Hotel. You can visit the Stadium all year long, every day – but be sure to check their tour hours online, as they change seasonally (starting at €14.00).
By a deed dated 10th December 1829 ‘an orchard, dwelling-house, yard and garden together with the fields adjoining’, amounting to a little over 12 acres was leased to a Mr John Bradley. By another deed dated 16th April 1864 another plot of land containing over 21 acres was leased to Mr Maurice Butterley.
The two plots of ground in these two leases were adjoining and overtime came into the ownership of the GAA. In 1894, a newly formed company, the City and Suburban Racecourse and Amusements Grounds Ltd, purchased over 14 acres from Butterley. The new owners leased the grounds for a variety of sports meetings and whippet racing as well as for Gaelic games.
In 1984 the organisation decided to investigate ways to increase the capacity of the old stadium. The design for an 80,000 capacity stadium was completed in 1991. Gaelic sports have special requirements as they take place in a large field. A specific requirement was to ensure the spectators were not too far from the field of play. This resulted in the three-tier design from which viewing games is possible: the main concourse, a premium level incorporating hospitality facilities and an upper concourse. The premium level contains restaurants, bars and conference areas.
The project was split into four phases over a 14-year period. Such was the importance of Croke Park to the GAA for hosting big games, the stadium did not close during redevelopment. During each phase, different parts of the ground were redeveloped, while leaving the rest of the stadium opens. Big games, including the annual All-Ireland Hurling and Football finals, were played in the stadium throughout the development.