The Ravenhill Stadium, which is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union, is located in South East Belfast and houses the administration centre for the game of rugby football in the province of Ulster.
Ravenhill is the home of Ulster Rugby, but also hosts finals of Club and School competitions from Under 10 Mini Rugby to the Senior Clubs Final. In August 2007 Ravenhill hosted its first senior Ireland international match in 53 years when Ireland took on Italy in a Rugby World Cup warm-up game on 24th August.
While the Ravenhill Ground has been maintained over the years, 2008 saw the first major modernisation of the stadium when foundations were laid for a new high-spec corporate stand on the terrace side of the ground - Phase 1 of a re-development programme. Built at a cost of £5.5million the stand opened for business in September 2009, boasting 20 high-spec corporate boxes, 532 premier seats and a full bar and restaurant facilities.
In 2010 Ulster Rugby submitted a business case to government, requesting funding from the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure to modernise the rest of the Ravenhill Grounds by building new stands at the Aquinas and car park ends of the ground and to replace the existing grandstand. In 2011, Minister Nelson McCausland confirmed that the request would be granted and £14.7 million of funding was secured in November 2012.
Construction work started immediately and will be complete by the summer of 2014. Three new stands will be built at the ground in a phased approach that will see capacity rise from 11,400 to 18,000.
Ulster Rugby has appointed Northern Ireland based general building contractor, Gilbert-Ash NI Ltd., to carry out the construction work. The first phase of the redevelopment will run from November 2012 until June 2013 and will see new stands built at both the Memorial and Aquinas ends of the ground.
The new Memorial End stand will provide covered seating for approximately 2,400 people with terracing for a further 1,350 fans. It will house a ticket office, a shop, a bar/catering facilities and a new educational facility. The educational facility will promote the benefits of nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and the values of sport.
The new Aquinas stand will be the new family area of the ground. It will provide covered seating for 2,100 people with terracing for a further 1,300 fans. It will house new team changing facilities, treatment rooms, an indoor training surface as well as match day media facilities. It will also become the Ulster Rugby Senior squad's new training base with a state-of-the-art gym, meeting rooms and facilities.
Once the Memorial and Aquinas ends of the ground are complete, the second phase of construction will begin. This will run from July 2013 until August 2014 and will see the demolition of the existing main stand and the construction of a replacement grandstand built to accommodate 3,450 seated spectators with the new promenade providing standing for approximately 3,400 fans. This stand will also have bar and restaurant facilities. The existing promenade will also be upgraded.
With the increased number of spectators that the new-look ground will be able to hold, Ravenhill will be capable of hosting a RaboDirect PRO12 Final or a Heineken Cup Quarter Final.
Ulster Rugby is seeking a naming partner for the new stadium and is in discussion with a number of interested parties.
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