€20m facelift for RDS Arena

Luke Fitzgerald and Sean O Brien with Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor pictured at the RDS. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

Leinster will play at a redeveloped and a rebranded RDS Arena after the announcement yesterday that naming rights will be likely sought for a new 25,000- capacity stadium to be unveiled in the late summer of 2017.

Ulster, who recently completed a makeover of Ravenhill, have already renamed the venue as Kingspan Stadium, while Munster are investigating the possibility of securing a commercial naming partner for Thomond Park.

Michael Duffy, CEO of the RDS, and Mick Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby, alluded to the likelihood of naming rights being sought to coincide with the construction work which it is proposed will commence in 2017. A “very attractive idea”, said Duffy.

The majority of the work will focus on the main Anglesea Stand which is to be replaced by a state-of-the-art structure capable of holding corporate boxes and media facilities and which will bring the capacity up from its current status of 18,500.

The proposed €20m budget is to be “the responsibility of the RDS”, according to Duffy, meaning there will be no added financial burden on Leinster who will continue to benefit as primary tenants at a stadium they have called home since 2007.

The new arena will also continue to cater for the annual Dublin Horse Show and the two or three concerts which have been routinely staged there for the last three decades – though not in 2014. The redevelopment would also put it in the frame as one of the venues to hold games should the bid to bring the 2023 Rugby World Cup to Ireland succeed though that was not a priority for Duffy or Dawson.

An international architectural design competition was revealed yesterday as the first stage of the proposal and it is envisaged that the other three sides of the ground will remain open to cater for Leinster games during the building phase.

The Anglesea Stand holds roughly 5,500 spectators but, with the addition of temporary seating, it is believed the capacity would drop to just 15,500. Dawson believes the long-term gain will be more than worth it.

Leinster are already one of the biggest draws in European rugby’s domestic calendar and the CEO expressed his confidence they would have little difficulty filling the extra 7,000 or so seats once the facelift is complete.

“We often have this philosophical discussion in the office when we are moving to the Aviva for games and we ask ‘where are the extra 25,000 people coming from?’. We believe the extra supply will create the demand. We are the only winter sport on offer in the city and we would be very optimistic that, in a city of one and a half million people, we would be able to drive another seven thousand people through the gates.”

Meanwhile, there was optimistic news from Luke Fitzgerald who underwent surgery on both sides of his lower abdomen and his groin after a frustrating, injury-riddled second-half to the season.

Fitzgerald, after months of uncertainty over the nature of the ailment, finally went under the knife three weeks ago with Gerry McEntee performing the procedure at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

“I’m still in rehab at this point,” he explained. “It’s a three-month injury so I’m looking to probably get back for the first week of September, if not slightly before that. That’s slightly within the time frame that I’ve been given.”


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