Ulster's €18m boost looks set to reinvent Ravenhill
Ulster Rugby is seeking to secure naming rights for their proposed redeveloped stadium at Ravenhill after announcing how they plan to utilise the €18.3m injection from Northern Ireland's Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for the final stages of construction.
At present they are in discussions with a number of interested parties who would like to be a naming partner to the new arena. Ravenhill is owned by the IRFU and was originally opened back in 1924.
A new stand on the east side was opened three years ago and work on the remaining three sides of the ground will begin next Wednesday, with completion planned by the summer of 2014. Ravenhill's capacity will be boosted from 11,400 to 18,100.
The Memorial End stand will house a ticket office, a shop, bar/catering facilities and a new educational facility which will promote the benefits of nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and the values of sport.
The 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 boast new team changing areas, treatment rooms, an indoor training surface as well as television match-day media facilities.
Underneath the stand will be a state-of-the-art gym, meeting rooms and lecture halls for the Ulster rugby squad and coaches.
The second phase of the redevelopment will begin in July 2013 and it is hoped the project will be completed in August 2014.
Ulster Rugby's chief executive Shane Logan said: "This is without doubt a seismic day, not only for sport in Northern Ireland but for Ulster rugby.
"This investment will create a modern, state-of-the-art stadium with the highest standard of facilities for both supporters and players.
"When everything is completed, hopefully Ravenhill can be utilised for big games such as Ireland Wolfhound matches, Pro12 finals and European quarter-final games, which require a capacity of at least 18,000.
"At the outset, when I first arrived at Ravenhill three years ago, things were moving extremely slowly as there were doubts about a national stadium and where it was to be situated.
"However, in the last two years things have moved on rapidly. The new stadium will go a long way in achieving the goals of Ulster Rugby.
"At present all of our home games are sold out and we clearly have not enough capacity. For example, an hour after tickets went on sale for the Ulster v Leinster game at Christmas, they were gone.
"We will be bringing the spectators closer to the pitch on all sides, which will create a great atmosphere, and hopefully put the fear into the opposition."