Saturday 25 May 2019

'There will be a year of pain' - Leinster braced for 12 months of RDS rebuild upheaval

Michael Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Michael Dawson, CEO of Leinster Rugby. Photo: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Sam Wheeler

Leinster are bracing themselves for "a year of pain" as they look to redevelop the RDS stadium in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.

The €26m project will take 12-15 months, according to Leinster CEO Mick Dawson, and will involve knocking down the Anglesea Stand and replacing it with a new stand with more seating, plus corporate facilities. The overall capacity would increase from 18,000 to 21,000.

The revamp will be paid for in part by a renaming deal, understood to be with Laya Healthcare.

While the rebuild is ongoing - throughout the 2019-20 season, if they secure the Government funding that they are hopeful of getting, and then complete the tendering process swiftly - there will be no stand down one side of the ground, with additional temporary seating at either end bringing the capacity to 16,000.

"It would just change the whole dynamic of the RDS," said Dawson, who yesterday announced the renaming of Donnybrook Stadium as Energia Park, as part of a 10-year partnership with the energy company. Both parties refused to give details on the finances involved, apart from to say there was "a substantial commitment" from Energia.

"If you have better side-on seats, covered seats, I think you will definitely be able to sell them. That's what the punters want," added Dawson. "Then ultimately, we'd look at redeveloping the rest of the place."

Dawson admitted that playing in the RDS during the rebuild was not ideal but said it was the only option.

"Realistically, we don't have anywhere else to go," he said. "There will be a year of pain. You're taking people out of the Anglesea Stand, looking halfway on, and saying, 'listen, you can sit at either end for the season' - that doesn't float everybody's boat.

"But we will be working very hard to get the message out to season ticket holders, 'listen, we're invested for the next 15 years but we're just going to have a year of disruption'."

Irish Independent

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