Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Aviva Stadium puts future of sport on Dublin’s doorstep

Irish football legends Packie Bonner (right) and Ray Houghton chat in the new Aviva Stadium (formerly Lansdowne Road) as they take a tour of the grounds as part of the stadium’s official opening

Space-age, environmentally friendly and designed to generate hitherto unimaginable amounts of money.

Welcome to Lansdowne Road. Correction; welcome to the Aviva Stadium.

Finished on time and slightly under budget, the stunning complex was formally opened yesterday by Republic of Ireland Prime Minister, Brian Cowen.

What was world rugby’s oldest stadium has become its newest, a 410 million Euro testament to vision, cross-sporting-codes co-operation, architectural daring, high-tech brilliance and structured, joined-up planning of the highest order.

The new home of the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland was designed by Populous whose past sporting stadia ventures include the Sydney Olympic Stadium and Arsenal FC’s Emirates home.

Currently they are working on a number of facilities for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The Aviva Stadium’s list of forthcoming attractions includes a visit by Manchester United — Rooney et al guaranteed — who will play an Airtricity League Select on Wednesday, August 4, with Argentina taking to the stage a week later (August 11) for an international football friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

Between now and the end of November the glistering, glittering Dublin 4 edifice will accommodate four international rugby matches with the autumnal line-up including visits by South Africa and New Zealand and two football European Championship qualifiers.

Then there’s a couple of back-to-back Michael Buble concerts showing that sport, although obviously integral, won’t have a monopoly on the new arena.

And determined not to alienate the neighbours — the Aviva Stadium stands in one of Dublin’s prime residential locations — it was felt that a Buble show would strike the right note as to future intent.

The capacity is 51,000 all-seated souls, accommodated on four levels on three sides of the stadium, sweeping down to one at the north end.

“A continuous curvilinear shaped stand enclosing all four sides of the ground” is how Stadium Director Martin Murphy described it at yesterday’s opening.

Facilities are, in a word, magnificent. For players, spectators, medical, catering, security, ancillary staff and media alike.

Everything has been done to make the experience of playing, watching or working here a hassle-free pleasure and an experience to savour.

Five points of entry and exit, with wide concourses and comfortable spatial allowances will enable easy circulation of the crowds who will pack this venue on a regular basis for the next 40 years.

The lower tier seats 20,000, with the upper tier accommodating a further 18,500.

The premium level capacity is 10,000, with 1,500 taking their places at box level.

Levels 1 and 5 are serviced by 18 bars, 16 outlets providing food and two offering confectionary. Remarkably, the Aviva Stadium can dispense 2,000 pints per minute. Indeed, they reckon 35,000 in 10 minutes is a runner.

Guinness? Pouring time six seconds. Lager? Four. Small wonder they’re calling it a state of the art beer system.

The food available at Levels 1 and 5 consists of fish and chips, Aviva gourmet burgers and hot beef sandwiches.

Those occupying the premium seats (Levels 2 and 3) will be catered for via 11 food outlets ranging from speciality coffee

shops through grill, wok and skewer bars to seafood and champagne/oyster and, of course, Guinness outlets.

And there are 11 fully-stocked bars, all of them big and open.

On Level 4, where the President’s Suite hosts 450 guests, the Chef’s Table will be offering dishes from around the world.

This tier also houses 36 private hospitality suites, each of them accommodating between 12 and 50 guests. “Bespoke menus and fine wines to suit their particular guest profile at any one event” is the name of the game.

Natural light is a feature of the remarkably spacious stadium and when darkness falls, the most modern floodlighting in the world — designed with the advent of HD television in mind — will illuminate the proceedings.

Out on the pitch are buried 15 water sprinklers, activated by the head groundsman’s mobile phone. Light shower, heavy rain, different numbers.

There is no danger of overload of mobile phone or computer networks, all of the major suppliers having worked in tandem to provide a system able to cope at times of maximum usage.

Welcome to the 21st century.

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