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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 16:08 GMT
Three contenders for NI stadium
Three locations have been short-listed for the site of a 55m multi-sports stadium in Northern Ireland.

They are the Maze Prison site, the North Foreshore of Belfast Lough and the Titanic Quarter in east Belfast.

Nine other sites for the proposed 30,000 seat stadium were rejected due to planning or transport difficulties.

Sports Minister Angela Smith said no decision would be taken until a detailed economic appraisal and business case had been completed.

Ms Smith confirmed the short-list at the Northern Ireland Grand Committee on Thursday, in response to a question from Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

She said: "On the basis of an initial site selection exercise to identify possible suitable locations, three sites have been identified for more detailed consideration.

Sports Minister Angela Smith
Sports Minister Angela Smith announced the short-list

"I am satisfied that an economic appraisal, including a robust business case for a stadium, should now be carried out and I have asked officials to put this work in hand."

The government is also awaiting the final report from the Maze Consultation panel set up to make recommendations on the regeneration of the former prison site.

BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Gareth Gordon said the Maze site remained the favourite.

He said the Titanic Quarter could be too expensive, as it would cost the government 60m to buy, whilst much of the reclaimed North Foreshore at Belfast Lough was contaminated.

"That leaves the Maze which has always been the favourite," he said.

"It would cost nothing, has good road and rail links which are set to be upgraded, and there's plenty of land for other projects, including hotels, bars and restaurants, on the site.

"It's also the location most acceptable to the GAA, one of three sports expected to use the stadium along with soccer and rugby."

The GAA last year agreed to stage some games at the proposed new sports stadium.

The government had insisted the stadium would only be built if it had the backing of soccer, rugby and GAA.

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