Ulster building for the future
These are the first pictures of what the new state-of-the-art stand at Ravenhill will look like.
The Ulster Branch are now well advanced in their ambitious £4.5m revamp of the south-east Belfast ground, with building expected to begin in November.
Boasting 20 corporate boxes and 530 premium seats, as well as an exclusive glass front bar/lounge facility offering an elevated view of the Ravenhill pitch, the new grandstand will provide opportunities for individuals and organisations to enjoy rugby at Ravenhill in more comfort than ever before.
With a six-month build time, the new stand, which will be built above the existing terrace, is expected to be completed by September 2009 in time for the start of the 2009/10 season.
Some of the capacity of the terrace, which currently holds 5,500 supporters, will be reduced, but it will remain a key feature of the new construction to maintain the famous Ravenhill roar.
The Branch is looking at options to erect temporary seating for next season as the capacity of the terrace will obviously be reduced during its construction.
"It's a six-month build programme so will begin in November this year to ensure that we're ready to open for business by the start of the competitive season in September 2009," said Ulster Branch chief executive Michael Reid.
"We would anticipate that due to building work, at some point next season we will probably have to limit the capacity on our terrace which currently accommodates up to 5,500 supporters.
"Obviously this will have a temporary impact on our gates which will be felt across the business, but we're preparing for it and will investigate costs around temporary seating, particularly if the limited capacity coincides with our bigger European games."
The new stand is only the first of a planned four-phase redevelopment of the ground.
Future construction will see a new stand at the car park end while the main stand will eventually have to be replaced. Phase four would see a new stand built at the Aquinas end.
And while the improved facilities for supporters are long overdue at the ground, the revamp is also vitally important in improving the financial strength of the province as it should massively increase the corporate hospitality revenues.
"An improved ground with better facilities will diversify our revenue streams which presently are fairly limited and concentrated in a couple of areas. We need to do this if we're going to compete with other clubs, hold on to our best young players and attract top names to Ravenhill in the future," added Reid.
"Since the Rugby World Cup in October 2007 there's been an explosion in player value and this makes the improvements to Ravenhill vital.
"When recruiting players you've got to look at the positional needs within the squad, but equally important is looking carefully at the profile of the group in terms of attributes like experience and leadership."
For more information on opportunities available within the new stand at Ravenhill, please contact Lyndsey Irwin at Ulster Rugby on 028 9049 3222.