We are delighted to have extended our partnership with Kingspan, one of Ulster’s most successful international companies, and to have secured a stadium naming rights partner for the first time.This is a landmark deal and one that will have considerable benefits for all of rugby in Ulster.
I want to thank Kingspan for its long-term commitment to the Province and I look forward to many more special rugby occasions, from school and club finals to European match nights, at Kingspan Stadium in the future.
Both Ulster Rugby and Kingspan are successful globally recognised brands within their respective fields.
We have been a partner of Ulster Rugby for 15 years and have witnessed the tremendous growth of rugby in the Province. We have also had extensive input into the redevelopment of the stadium through our high performance technologies. We are delighted to significantly extend our already strong association with Ulster Rugby by putting our name to such a wonderful sporting venue and are proud that the home of Ulster Rugby will be now known as Kingspan Stadium.
John Robinson, President, IRFU (Ulster Branch), warmly welcomed the new association when he said:
This long-term deal, with a leading Ulster company, will result in a highly significant investment for rugby in the Province and is a contract of which all involved can be very proud. Rugby has never been stronger in Ulster and partnerships such as this will enable us to continue to grow the game at club and schools level and to remain competitive both in Europe and the PRO12.
Kingspan Stadium: Phased Redevelopment
Ravenhill Rugby Ground or Kingspan Stadium as it is now known, is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and is located in South East Belfast. It houses the administration centre for the game of rugby football in the province of Ulster.
The stadium is the home of Ulster Rugby, but also hosts finals of Club and School competitions, from Under 10 Mini Rugby to the Senior Clubs Final. In August 2007, the venue hosted its first senior Ireland international match in 53 years when Ireland took on Italy in a Rugby World Cup warm-up game on 24th August.
While the ground has been maintained over the years, 2008 saw the first major modernisation of the stadium when foundations were laid for a new high-spec corporate stand on the terrace side of the ground; Phase 1 of a re-development programme. Built at a cost of GB£5.5m, the stand opened for business in September 2009, boasting 20 high-spec corporate boxes, 532 premier seats and a full bar and restaurant facilities.
In 2010, Ulster Rugby submitted a business case to government, requesting funding from the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure to modernise the rest of the grounds by building new stands at the Aquinas and car park ends and to replace the existing grandstand. In 2011, Minister Nelson McCausland confirmed that the request would be granted and GB£14.7m of funding was secured in November 2012. Construction work started immediately and will be complete this summer. Three new stands will be built at the ground in a phased approach that will see capacity rise from 11,400 to 18,000.
Ulster Rugby has appointed Northern Ireland based general building contractor, Gilbert-Ash NI Ltd., to carry out the construction work. The first phase of the redevelopment ran from November 2012 until June 2013, and saw new stands built at both the Memorial and Aquinas ends of the ground. The new Memorial End stand provides covered seating for approximately 2,400 people with terracing for a further 1,350 fans. It houses a ticket office, a shop, a bar/catering facilities and a new educational facility that promotes the benefits of nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and the values of sport.
The new Aquinas stand is the new family area of the ground. It provides covered seating for 2,100 people with terracing for a further 1,300 fans. It houses new team changing facilities, treatment rooms, an indoor training surface, as well as match day media facilities. It is also the Ulster Rugby Senior squad’s new training base with a state-of-the-art gym, meeting rooms and facilities.
Once the Memorial and Aquinas ends of the ground were complete, the second phase of construction began. This will run from July 2013 until August 2014, and will see the demolition of the existing main stand and the construction of a replacement grandstand built to accommodate 3,450 seated spectators with the new promenade providing standing for approximately 3,400 fans. This stand will also have bar and restaurant facilities. The existing promenade will also be upgraded.
With the increased number of spectators that the new-look ground will be able to hold, Kingspan Stadium will be capable of hosting a RaboDirect PRO12 Final or a Heineken Cup Quarter Final.
Source & image credit: Ulster Rugby