€20m revamp planned for the home of Leinster rugby
LEINSTER's new stadium is likely to be renamed in order to help finance the ambitious project.
The province plans a €20m revamp of its RDS home, which will increase its capacity to 25,000 – and the new venue is expected to be used in the official IRFU bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Leinster and the RDS will run an international architecture competition, with the successful bidder expected to spearhead the redevelopment of the ground, including the replacement of the existing Anglesea Stand.
It will increase capacity from 18,500 to 25,000, and provide improved facilities for corporate sponsors, media, players and fans.
The project will be financed by the RDS, which said it hoped to secure some funding from the sale of naming rights.
"Naming rights will be a very attractive proposition and could form part of the funding mix," RDS chief executive Michael Duffy said. "The RDS is already on a world stage as an equestrian and now rugby venue and our ambition is for a world-leading stadium with facilities on a par with the best anywhere."
The Ballsbridge arena has hosted Leinster Rugby since 2007, after the team outgrew their traditional Donnybrook home. They have regularly sold out the venue en route to winning three European Cups in the past five years.
Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson said it was likely to form part of any bid to host the Rugby World Cup.
"It is not in our gift whether the stadium can be added to a putative World Cup roster. But we will be determined to ensure that this is a world-class facility so in that regard I am sure that any redevelopment would be of interest to the organisers, were the IRFU to be successful in their bid."
Work is expected to begin by April 2016, with construction lasting 18 months. Leinster will continue to play at the ground, with temporary seating to be installed.
However, up to 3,000 seats could be lost during building works.
The annual August Horse Show will remain at the venue during construction and up to three concerts a year with capacity for up to 40,000 people will be hosted when complete.
Leinster and Irish flanker Sean O'Brien welcomed the development.
"It's exciting to have more people there," he said.
Leinster Rugby head coach Matt O'Connor said players would benefit from the redevelopment.
"You only have to talk to the players – they love playing in the RDS. It is their home, their fortress and over the last few years we have been lucky enough to have played some finals at the RDS and for that reason there are special memories attached to the place," he said.
"But we are also realistic enough to know that we have to move with the times and ensure development of the facilities in the RDS to a world-class level and ultimately the players will benefit from that."