Irish FA president Jim Shaw has hailed Friday’s funding announcement for Windsor Park has a “major milestone”.
Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has finally given the green light for the £31m refurbishment of the dilapidated international stadium.
Work is expected to start next month, and it is hoped the new Windsor Park will be completed in the second half of 2015.
And IFA chief Shaw believes it is an exciting time for football in Northern Ireland.
“Today’s announcement is a major milestone for the IFA and Windsor Park,” he said.
“DCAL have approved the funding and we can start going forward now.
“It has been along process to get to this point, but now we can look ahead .”
Funding for the project was thrown in doubt back in September after DCAL raised concerns over governance issues within the IFA – these centred on David Martin’s return to the Association as deputy president.
Those fears appear to have been calmed with Friday’s announcement.
“We need the funding in place so we can appoint a construction company to build the new stadium,” Shaw added.
“Now the process is firmly under way, and this is the realisation of a lot of work over the past three or four years.
“The redevelopment is essential. Other countries have progressed with their stadia, and now Northern Ireland can do the same.”
The Minister said: “This signals a new chapter in the history of Windsor Park. Funding of £31m will allow the Irish Football Association to modernise Windsor and raise the capacity to 18,000. This is a tremendous boost for the local football family which will see two new stands and two refurbished stands.”
The statement added: “I look forward to visiting the re-vamped Windsor Park in 2016. Football fans at long last can look forward to a brighter future in the modernised, family friendly stadium they deserve.”