Aviva wows with her glorious curves

 

The collective gasp the IRFU and FAI had hoped for when showing the media around the new Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road this morning never quite materialised, primarily because, for many, it was a case of ‘been there, bought the giant inflatable hand’, writes CARL O'MALLEY

While the €410 million project is undoubtedly an impressive sight, a typically pessimistic press corps cannot help comparing it to the likes of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium or Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.

Both hold in excess of 60,000 and, though it seemed impolite to ask out loud, some voiced misgivings as to whether south Dublin’s new 50,000-seater would stand the test of time.

The IRFU’s chief executive Philip Browne certainly seems to think so and boldly proclaimed as much when the media were ushered into the plush surroundings which he predicts they will become increasingly familiar with over the next four decades.

The capacity is “bang on for us,” he said of the structure he believes will be the “financial engine” that will “drive the sport for the next 40 years”.

FAI chief executive John Delaney later revised that to 50 and added: “I have no doubt that this stadium will bring revenues to rugby and soccer that they've never had before. We can attract competitions that we have never been able to do before.”

The capacity was never likely to be much higher given the cramped surroundings. Regardless of the stadium’s shelf life, it is indeed a pretty sight and a credit to architects Populous and Scott Tallon Walker, even if planning restrictions at the Havelock End (north) do lend the stadium a sort of bedpan quality from the outside.

Inside, the former north terrace stands out for the fact that it doesn’t stand out and resembles the seating plan of the Jeremy Kyle show. It holds 3,000, which for most soccer games, will account for the away fans.

That said, the polycarbonate panels that form the outer shell afford a view of the terraced streets immediately behind and offer a reminder that the new incarnation remains in its rightful place among an urban community and not, like so many other stadia, in the wilderness of a previously unheard of greenfield site.

The sponsors are inevitably inescapable, with Aviva emblazoned across the green seats on three sides of the stadium.

Of particular concern to some of the assembled media was the press box, from which there appears to be a limited view of the near touchline, though quite how limited is difficult to ascertain without the help of pitch markings.

The middle two of the four tiers cater for premium level and corporate seats, or around 11,300 people in total. The ‘President’s Suite’ can seat up to 450, while on both the east and west sides up to 800 can be seated for dinner in conference rooms.

For the hoi polloi, there are 18 bars, 16 food outlets and two confectionary units. Crucially, “the state of the art” beer systems can dispense a pint in four seconds, meaning 2,000 of the anticipated 70,000 pints sold per game can be doled out per minute.

In the bowels, there are four changing rooms, each fully loaded, though a few tweaks have been reserved for the home team’s quarters. There are astro-turfed warm-up areas for the players, where Robbie can do his sprints and the rugby lads can practice a few lineouts.

Former players could only dream of surroundings like these, and they admitted as much today.

“The light, the shape, it’s a thing of beauty,” crooned Keith Wood when called upon.

“Quality, world class, inspirational and emotional” was Packie Bonner’s verdict.

A “jealous” Reggie Corrigan would “love to wind the clock back”.

Fans can give their verdict at the combined provincial rugby fixture on July 31st, or when Manchester United and, a week later, Argentina visit in August.

If, of course, they can get a ticket.