New era beckons on field of dreams
Rebuilt Lansdowne almost ready for the arrival of our sporting heroes
IT WAS the field of dreams on which the highest and lowest moments in Irish sport were played out.
Triple Crown victories for the international rugby team in 1982, 1985 and 2004; Jason McAteer's wonder goal against Holland in 2001 paving the way for Ireland to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
And wretched scenes in February 1995 when an Ireland-England international had to be abandoned when English football hooligans rioted after their team went a goal down.
Next month the rebuilt 50,000-seater Lansdowne Road will welcome the soccer and rugby teams home after a three-year exile to Croke Park.
Built at a cost of €410m, of which €190m came from the taxpayer, it will replace the world's oldest continuously-used stadium which has been the home of Irish rugby since 1872 and soccer since the 1980s.
And the Irish Independent has been given a sneak preview.
Up to 1,000 construction workers are completing the fit-out of the renamed Aviva Stadium before it is officially handed over to owners the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in four weeks' time.
The players of yesterday did not have a fraction of the facilities available to the professional sportsmen who will grace the Dublin 4 venue from August.
There's a hydrotherapy pool, spacious dressing rooms and medical facilities and warm-up rooms with ceilings high enough to allow line-outs to be practised pre-match.
And it's not just the pitch that will be green. A four-bin recycling system, waterless urinals, compostable burger wrappers and the use of harvested rain to keep the pitch watered will make it one of the most environmentally-friendly sports stadia in the world.
Operations manager Bill Enright said yesterday that up to 400,000 litres of water a year will be saved by using waterless urinals on busy match days.
There are five entrances -- two more than in the old venue -- with an emphasis on the use of public transport to keep the crowd moving.
"Up to 1,200 people can be corralled on the DART platform," Mr Enright said. "A gating system will be used to prevent overcrowding, and five entrances at Bath Avenue, Shelbourne Road -- both of which are new -- Lansdowne Lane, Herbert Bridge and Lansdowne Road will be available.
"There are 117 turnstiles, up from about 50 in the old stadium, and disabled car parking for 100. We can clear the whole ground in an emergency in 15 minutes.''
Food and drink will be available at 59 locations, and a pint can be pulled in just six seconds, meaning shorter queues for thirsty fans. But there's no drinking pitchside, a situation which may be reviewed later.
A staff of six will run the venue. The official opening will be on May 14 when 1,500 people attend a black-tie function.
The first match will be a provincial rugby tie when a combined Leinster/Ulster team play a Munster/Connacht side on August 7.