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€20 million redevelopment of Leinster's RDS home 'on hold' for financial reasons

Leinster CEO Mick Dawson has given an update on the project.

THE PLANNED REDEVELOPMENT of the main arena at the RDS is currently on hold as Leinster Rugby await to hear if an application for Government funding as part of a major sports capital programme is successful.

A view of the RDS ahead of the game The capacity of the RDS is set to be increased to 21,000. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The €20 million redevelopment of the Ballsbridge venue now hinges on the acquirement of funding with other important pieces, such as planning permission and a naming rights partner, already in place.

The plan is to increase the capacity of the RDS from 18,500 to 21,000, with a complete redevelopment of the Anglesea Stand the first part of a project to improve the overall facilities of the venue for rugby, showjumping and concerts.

With planning permission approved almost 18 months ago, Leinster CEO Mick Dawson yesterday said the project can commence as soon as funding is secured.

“The RDS has been a long story, as you know,” he said. “We have planning permission but everything is on hold at the moment for financial reasons. The next stage in that development is to actually go to tender but the RDS aren’t going to move to a tender process until they secure the money.

“So, the RDS are prepared to put capital into it, we have a naming rights partner in the deal and the Government have now announced that there’s a fund for major capital programmes.

“Ourselves and the RDS have engaged a company called Hume Brophy to work with us and guide us through the kind of political thing. We’re engaged with the Government and I think you have to have the applications in, I’m not sure it’s actually clarified yet, but it’s some time in April.

“Then the Government will make a decision and you’d be hopeful that we would get a Government grant. That’s where we are.”

Speaking at the announcement of Leinster’s new sponsorship deal with Energia, Dawson explained that the first phase of the RDS’ redevelopment would be a 12-15 month process once construction begins.

Mick Dawson CEO Mick Dawson speaking at the announcement of Leinster's partnership with Energia. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

With no option to move their home games to another ground, Leinster will continue to play at the RDS with temporary seating installed at either end to accommodate supporters who would normally sit in the Anglesea Stand.

Dawson admits it would be a ‘year of pain’, but the province would consult with supporters to ensure minimal disruption during the construction period.

He explains: ”Our plan is that we would play during the build period, so knock the Anglesea Stand or even take a roof off the stand at some stage and build from September and you’d hope from the following September you’d be back with a new stand.

“It would be a staged development so you would have a new Anglesea Stand and I think ultimately as we get into that, we’d look at redeveloping the rest of the place.

“You’re taking people out of the Anglesea Stand, looking halfway on, and saying ‘listen, you can sit at either end now for the season’, that doesn’t float everybody’s boat.

“We will be working very hard to actually get all those messages out to season ticket holders and hopefully you would get their support that, ‘listen, we’re invested for the next 15 years but we’re just going to have a year of disruption.’”

While the RDS — as owners of the venue — and Leinster — the tenants — are unable to put any definitive timeline on the project, Dawson says the best case scenario is to have the first phase completed by the start of the 2020/21 season.

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