Athlone Town FC reveals major upgrade plans
Athlone Town AFC has unveiled ambitious plans this week for a major new development to cater for the increased popularity of women's soccer.
The project, to be developed in two phases, consists of a new two-storey building with fitness suite, changing rooms, an external covered spectator balcony and a new standing terrace at the Brawny Road end of the club's home in Lissywollen.
The news comes just ahead of this weekend's first ever President's Cup women's match between Athlone Town and Shelbourne in Athlone Town Stadium which is set to be attended by President Michael D. Higgins
In the application, lodged on February 17, the club says the women's and men's teams share facilities, but the “recent success and development of the ladies football team has increased the need for a facility building for the ladies' team”.
The proposed two-storey building would be located to the Brawney Road end of the ground, north of the existing football pitch, and would form phase one of the project.
On the ground floor level, there would be a reception, offices, home and away ladies changing rooms, shower rooms, home and away toilets, wheelchair toilets, kit store room and plant room.
A new fitness suite is earmarked for the first floor, encompassing a gym, match analysis room, club committee room, conference room and canteen which would lead out to a covered balcony area for spectator viewing.
Phase two would comprise of a new spectator standing terrace, according to plans, which would accommodate a capacity of 1,700 over an area of 710 square metres by utilising the existing mound on the site to form the terrace with signage and access gangways, it adds, with a decision expected by April 13 next.
Founded in 1887, Athlone Town is the oldest League of Ireland club, and has been based in Lissywollen, close to Athlone Regional Sports Centre since the stadium was built in 2007, replacing the old St Mel's Park.
The growth of women's soccer within the club is relatively recent, the application shows, with 2018 listed as the year they were one the founding clubs in a new U17 Women's National League.
Then in November, 2019 the club's application to join the Senior Women's National League for the following 2020 season was accepted.
Since then, the team has flourished reaching the 2022 EVOKE.ie FAI Women's Cup final, losing out to Shelbourne. They were also runners-up to the Dublin team in the league last year.
They are now over 100 female footballers across the various Athlone Town FC teams, including 30 attached to the senior team, the planning documents lodged in support of the application also reveals.
This Saturday, President Michael D. Higgins will be in Athlone for the first ever President's Cup women's match between Athlone Town and Shelbourne.
The fixture will kick-start the new women's campaign as last year's double winners Shelbourne will take on league and cup runners-up Athlone Town.
The match will take place at the Athlone Town Stadium on Saturday, February 25, with a 4pm kick-off.
The President's Cup men's match has been supported by Michael D. Higgins since 2014, with this Saturday's game a new addition to the women's football calendar.
Well known local business A1 Cleaning Ltd, headed up by Tanya Cannon, was announced recently as the new front of jersey sponsors for the senior women's team and on the back of the senior men's team.