A major fundraising drive has also been started by the Munster Branch to fund the redevelopments. A tax based scheme is at the centre of the fund raising drive, which operates under the Sports Capital Tax legislation, with individuals being encouraged to donate EUR 250 upwards and corporate sponsors being invited to make tax deductable contributions. Munster hope to riase EUR 10 million through the scheme.
"The development of Thomond Park and Musgrave Park will allow us provide the capacity required to accommodate the increasing number of supporters who want to share in the unique Munster Rugby experience," said O'Driscoll.
"We are acutely aware of the tradition of Thomond Park but we need to bring the ground up to a level that reflects Munster's standing in the world game. The expansion of Thomond Park will ensure supporters would have greater access tickets for all Munster's crucial home games."
The Munster plans come hot on the heels of the announcement by Leicester Tigers that they are looking to join forcves with Leicester City to buy out the current owners at the Walkers Stadium and turn it into a dual facility for the city's top two professional sporting outfits.
Toulouse recently completed the upgrading of their home at Stade Ernest Wallon, taking its capacity up to 19,506; Northampton Saints now play out of a completely renovated Franklin's Gardens ground; the Ospreys will be ground sharing with Swansea City in a new 20,000 stadium at Morfa next season, while Leinster and Glasgow are also considering major moves with their facilities.It is all part of the evolution of professional rugby across Europe and it comes at a time when Heineken Cup matches are attracting bigger and bigger audiences.
The plans devised by the development sub committee of the Munster Branch will see a significant improvement in both player and spectator facilities across the province. In addition to the development of Thomond and Musgrave Park the committee are negotiating the purchase of a 10 acre site in Limerick City specifically for club and age grade rugby. Dressing room and storage facilities will also be built at the Cois Laoi facility in Cork for use by clubs and the Munster professional team.
Munster chief executive, Garrett Fitzgerald, is delighted that the scheme is aimed at both developing facilities and encouraging player development. "The success of our professional team, in addition to the surge in age grade rugby as a result of great work by our youth development officers, places more pressure on existing facilities. We currently have 19,000 age grade players in the province. The development sub committee's plans will allow us build on this phenomenal level of interest in the game," said Fitzgerald.
The fund raising tax scheme has a target of EUR10 million. The development sub committee hope to submit planning applications in early 2005.