Redevelopment of Ravenhill about to get underway for Ulster
The home of Ulster Rugby is set to undergo a major redevelopment starting later this month.
Last Updated: 14/11/12 2:57pm
The construction will see three new stands built at Ravenhill in east Belfast and is due to be completed by the summer of 2014. Capacity at the historic venue will then increase from 11,400 to 18,000.
The plans come at an ideal time for a team on the up. Tickets for Ulster games are currently at a premium, with the team's unbeaten start to the season leading to frequent sell-outs.
These developments on Ravenhill mirror similar Stormont Executive-backed redevelopments at Belfast's Casement Park Gaelic games venue and Windsor Park football stadium, the home of the Northern Ireland international team.
Caral Ni Chuilin, the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, has officially released the £14.7 million pledged for Ulster Rugby's plan.
Now the club is seeking a naming partner for the new-look stadium and is in discussion with a number of interested parties. By next June, new stands will go up at the Memorial and Aquinas ends before the existing main stand is ripped down and replaced.
The three new structures are set to transform Ravenhill, which was opened in 1923, into one of the most modern rugby grounds in Europe.
Importantly, the new capacity will also surpass the threshold required to host a Heineken Cup quarter final or a RaboDirect PRO12 Final.
Shane Logan, Ulster Rugby chief executive, hailed the redevelopment.
He said: "On behalf of Ulster Rugby, I would like to thank the minister and her department for releasing this funding.
"This investment will create a modern, state-of-the-art stadium with the highest standard of facilities for both supporters and players. The new Ravenhill will enhance the position of Ulster Rugby in the world game and will greatly benefit the development of rugby in the Province."
The new Memorial End stand will offer covered seating for approximately 2,400 people, with terracing for a further 1,350 fans with the new Aquinas stand set to be the family area of the ground. It will also become the Ulster Rugby senior squad's new training base.