Work on new stands to increase capacity to 18,000
Former Ireland rugby international Trevor Ringland has welcomed funding for the home of Ulster rugby which will see the capacity of the Ravenhill ground in east Belfast increase from 11,400 to 18,000.
The North’s sports minister Cara Ní Chuilín yesterday approved the final payment of £13.9 million (€17.3m) which will bring the total funding to £14.7 million (€18.3m). Work is to begin on three new stands later this month and is expected to be finished by September 2014.
News of the funding comes as Ulster, last year’s Heineken European Cup finalists, enjoy an unbeaten start to their season. When completed Ravenhill would be capable of catering for a Heineken Cup quarter-final or Pro 12 final. New stands will be erected at the Memorial and Aquinas ends of Ravenhill by June 2013 while the old main stand will be replaced during the 2013-14 season.
Ní Chuilín said Ravenhill would become a more inclusive and family-friendly sports ground. “As the construction work begins, the wider community will also see benefits in employment, particularly for long -term unemployed and young people who will have the opportunity of much needed work and apprenticeships in the building industry,” she added.
Shane Logan, Ulster Rugby chief executive, said the development would see a modern-state-of-the-art stadium. “The new Ravenhill will enhance the position of Ulster Rugby in the world game and will greatly benefit the development of rugby in the province,” he added.
Ringland, who is the British Conservative Party spokesman on sport in Northern Ireland, said this was an exciting time for rugby in Ulster. “The three redeveloped stadia for rugby, GAA and football will provide players and spectators with modern venues Northern Ireland can be proud of, where the whole community can come together,” he said.
This project is part of commitments made by the Northern Executive in March last year to provide over £105 million (€131m) to support the development of three stadiums – Ravenhill, Windsor Park and Casement Park in west Belfast.
The work on Windsor Park will cost up to £29.2 million (€36m). Casement Park will be rebuilt with a contribution of £61.4 million (76.5m) from the Executive and £15 million (€19m) from the GAA, creating a 40,000 all-seat facility.