The mission of Gaelic Park is to preserve and promote the culture and heritage of Ireland – the Irish national games, the music, dance, language, literature, theatre, art, and religion of Ireland.
After the purchase of the initial 9 acres of land on 147th Street, the structure of Gaelic Park as an organization was formed. A committee of 15 individuals was organized and became Gaelic Park’s first Board of Directors. Some of these individuals were the athletes originally looking for a playing field. Liam O’Brien was elected as first President. Several previous attempts at providing a home for Irish sport in Chicago had failed and this caused a natural pessimism as to the likelihood of its success. Gaelic Park forged ahead and its founders built the center themselves with donated materials, with help and support from good friends. Ground was first broken on the site in the fall of 1983 and a structure of a kitchen, two locker rooms, a meeting room and a banquet hall were completed. The grand opening took place in June of 1985.
Many changes have taken place over the years with additional banquet facilities, an Irish Pub and office space being added. Gaelic Park continues to receive many dignitaries and celebrities through its doors. Among its distinguished visitors are President Mary Robinson and President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Ambassador Noel Fahey, First Lady Hilary Clinton, GAA Presidents Jack Bootman, Joe McDonough and Nicky Brennan, and moszt recently current President Michael D. Higgins. Entertainers such as Mary Black, Daniel O’Donnell, The Wolfe Tones, Stockton’s Wing, Niall Tobin, Brendan Grace, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann and many more have entertained the community with wonderful concerts.
Gaelic Park also played a role in the Irish immigration reforms of 1990. It supported the United States’ and Ireland’s stamp in honor of the millions of victims of the Irish Famine and the simultaneous issuance of the stamp in 1999. It also sponsored “An Gorta Mor,” an exhibition in memory of the Irish Famine. A memorial dedicated to the victims of the Irish Famine which depicts an Irish family weakened by the famine but strengthened by their togetherness was unveiled in October of 1999 and is on permanent display at the entrance to Gaelic Park.
Over the years, Gaelic Park has introduced many special events in which the community participates and enjoys, such as Irish Fest, Chicago Feis, Ireland on Parade, Heritage & Harvest Day, Monthly Musical Luncheon, The Sunday Classic Carvery, Mingle & Jingle Christmas Parties, Family New Year’s Eve Party, scholarship awards programs and much more.
Today, Gaelic Park continues to thrive. Our cultural endeavors are supported by the beautiful indoor and outdoor wedding facilities, by Irish Fest, and by our many members and dedicated volunteers.
For decades, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) played the “games of the Gaels”, Gaelic football and hurling in various parks and American football stadiums throughout Chicagoland. The idea of a permanent home, dedicated to GAA sports, was always a dream.
In 1979 members of the GAA put a plan in action to acquire land and build a facility for their sporting purposes. They had a broader vision, however. Their dream included a home for a wide variety of Irish organizations and activities. Thus Gaelic Park was born. “Once a dream, now a reality” was its initial step.
Gaelic Park remains a premier facility for Gaelic sports. No less than Sean Kelly, former President of GAA, once stated that “Outside of Croke Park in Dublin, Chicago Gaelic Park is the finest Gaelic Athletic facility in the world.”
Simply stated, the mission of Gaelic Park is to preserve and promote the culture and heritage of Ireland. The Irish national games provide a fitting beginning. The expanded mission, however, includes the music, dance, language, literature, theatre, art, and religion of Ireland. Besides the GAA, Gaelic Park provides a home for numerous independent organizations and groups to celebrate a multitude of Irish activities. Its mission is alive and will continue to expand and evolve along with the heritage and culture of Ireland.