The first recorded evidence of the Gaelic games in Philadelphia was in 1914 when a meeting was held at Philo Celtic Gaelic Football Club.
The Greater Philadelphia Irish American Cultural Center will be a hub for Irish affairs in the Western Suburbs of Philadelphia. It is situated in Montgomery County, in an area that was not too long ago a farming community.
The property boom in the region during the last 15 years saw the development of this area. What was once farmland is now housing developments and shopping complexes.
Many of the Irish community that lived in the traditional ‘Irish' areas of Northeast and Western Philadelphia and Upper Darby areas have relocated to this semi rural region. The development has been controlled and as a result open green areas have been preserved.
The property is located a short distance from a major artery, the 422 Expressway. This route connects to all major highways and provides ease of access to all the surrounding areas.
The Center will consist of two full size GAA fields located either side of the building.
The building will be split level. The upper level will consist of a function room, kitchen area and office.
The lower level will house dressing room and shower facilities.
The GAA fields will be the center of activity for the local GAA community. The Philadelphia Board is made up of eight adult and three youth clubs. The complex will be used for a training facility and the central venue for tournaments and competitions.
The function room will be available for the use of all Irish and Irish American community groups. It is envisioned that Irish Dancing and Music will become an integral part of the complex. It is also anticipated that the Irish Emmigration Center would locate and office in the center.
The Center will be overseen by the Greater Philadelphia Irish American Cultural Association. This body is comprised of individual members and the Philadelphia GAA board. This structure ensures that the Association will always be controlled by individuals whose goal is to promote Irish Culture.
History of Property
The 11 acre site was purchased by the GPIACA in 2004 with money that was invested by the original GAA body in Philadelphia and money loaned to GPIACA by individuals from the Irish Community.
Detailed plans for the development of the site were drawn up and a funding plan was put in place. The GAA in Philadelphia sought and received a financial commitment for the development from the GAA in Ireland.
In 2010 the GPIACA secured a loan to repay the initial loans given by individuals. This was done to ensure that the GPIACA would retain control of the site and project going forward.
The development plans were submitted to the Limerick Township in 2006 and four years would pass before approval to start work was received. There were many reasons for this timeline and all were related to the controlled development of the area. Many impact studies had to be completed to satisfy the township that the project would not harm the surrounding environment. Of particular concern was the immunization of run off water, due to the close location of the Schykull river.
The first project was the removal of over 300 tress on the lower side of the property. Grading of the site would begin in the fall of 2010 and this progressed until the snows of winter stopped the project. As luck would have it the region received the largest amount of snow fall in recent history, preventing work from resuming until spring arrived.
The retention pond was then constructed, this was required to contain all run off water. The drainage system was put in place over the summer of 2011. On the advice of the engineer the retaining wall design was changed. This allowed the walls to be completed for a much smaller budget. However this changed needed township approval and another slight delay ensued, with approval coming in mid October.
Construction of the retaining walls was immediately commenced and is ongoing.
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