The new Lansdowne

Great collaboration all ending in tiers

Men, women and machines work from morning till evening, five-and-a-half days a week, on the great project, which is on schedule to be completed in April 2010 at a revised cost of 410 million. - (Photograph: Eric Luke)

John O’Sullivan visits the building site, is pleasantly surprised and impressed by the rate of progress and hears from the stadium director

THE STEEL and concrete edifice rises high into a leaden Dublin sky, the sound of rainfall drowned out by the familiar din of construction on a building site. But even for those who regularly pass Lansdowne Road during its redevelopment, a project that started with the demolition of the old stadium in May of last year, there is little visible evidence of the work that has already been completed.

They glimpse only the outer shell of the new 50,000 all-seater, 410-million development that will eventually house the national rugby and soccer teams when the project is completed at the end of April, 2010.

It is only to those venturing on site that the true scale is revealed. The progress is impressive, targets measured and calibrated on a 24-hour basis.

Martin Murphy left his position in the IRFU to take on a new role as stadium director at Lansdowne Road and from his office in the Lansdowne Road clubhouse he fully appreciates the speed with which the new stadium is taking shape.

“Literally on a daily basis I notice changes,” he remarks. "We started in May of last year and an awful lot has been achieved since then. The biggest aspect relating to the initial process was the demolition of the West Stand: a big feat that had to be done over a bank holiday weekend.

"The second big milestone was the erection of podium which is to reinstate something over the railway and that took another weekend.

“Both of those went extremely well and thereafter the project has been a lot simpler. We are on course for April, 2010, the hand-over date.”

There is a lot of concurrent activity going on at the moment. You have concrete work, steel work, the services being started and block work. The stadium is really taking shape.

The minutiae of the construction are strictly regulated, with regard not least to residents’ concerns, as Murphy explained.

"Work begins at 7am and finishes at 6pm from Monday to Friday. They work every Saturday from 8am to 1.30pm and there is no work done on a Sunday. It’s because we are in a built-up area with residents beside us that those hours are strictly adhered to.

"The only exceptions are when necessary work has to be done after hours. That would include finishing off some of the concrete that has been poured during the day. Any work that takes place around the DART line tends to take place at night.

"There are almost 600 people working on site at present and the expectation is that number will rise to 900. In addition to that there are people working off site.

"For example the pre-cast concrete is being manufactured in Banagher. There are 8,000 pieces of concrete being built down there and transported up with trucks arriving daily.

"The steel is also fabricated off-site so there are plenty of people involved in the project who don’t necessarily clock in at Lansdowne Road and this extends right down to some of the design team.

"The roof will start in December and go on for most of 2009. It is being fabricated in Italy and is one of the big features - quite a complex structure.

"Currently the stadium has reached its highest point for concrete. The steel for the upper tier is going in at the moment so it is very nearly at its highest point of the actual building.

“In two months’ time the majority of the structure will be in place. There are seven floors in total above ground level; two of them are for plant and services and then there are five floors that the public have access to and most of those are in place.”

The concrete part of the seating for the premium-level ticket holders is virtually complete.

The IRFU sold out those 10,000 seats (15,000 for a 10-year tenancy) while the FAI will next week launch the sale of their premium tickets - it is the same timeframe - ranging from 12,000 to 32,000, the latter figure guaranteeing seats on the halfway line.

The two governing bodies haven’t been afraid to tweak the original plans in the pursuit of improvement. The original costing for the stadium was 365 million, which the Government is subsidising to the tune of 191 million. That figure is capped.

The new estimate for the cost of the project is 410 million, the IRFU and FAI making up the difference. It is not primarily a question of overrunning costs, more a matter of the decision to build a 250-bay underground car park and upgrade ancillary facilities.

There is a mutual commitment to building the best stadium from a playing and spectating point of view. Murphy elaborated.

"When we were sitting down with the designers we looked at our customers; they are players, management, media and the public. We looked at the facilities we should put in for them; basically state of the art. We examined what was available elsewhere and took the best ideas.

"We have gone beyond that in some cases, pointedly in terms of the player facilities. They’ll have a facility which isn’t available anywhere else for rehab and that’ll make a big difference to them after a match.

“We have taken advice from the specialists that the IRFU and the FAI use.”

Quite apart from the usual facilities that one might expect in that regard, there will be massive plunge pools (hot and cold) for players, a specially leaded X-ray room, designated changing-rooms for female referees and coaches, and a toilet and specially adapted changing-room for the disabled.

Murphy continued: "We can feed 2,500 people simultaneously from nine kitchens and can also offer food and drinks to the rest of the public.

"It is not just the premium offering; there are bar, restaurant and kiosks right throughout the building.

“The other big thing is the toilet facilities, something that the old stadium was lacking in, to put it mildly. It’ll be a much better spectator experience.”

The stadium is being geared not just for the national rugby and soccer sides but also for concerts and potentially for Uefa soccer matches. There will be a passage taking spectators under the railway line and a new entrance on Shelbourne Road (there will be five entrances/exits as against the old stadium’s three). Supporters will approach on routes specially directed by colour coding on tickets and a forecourt will be constructed for people waiting for the DART.

The 9,000 patrons that used to enter via the Havelock Square end will enter from elsewhere; the Havelock Square end will serve only as an emergency egress, as stipulated by the planners.

Asked to single out one aspect of the development, Murphy proffered: "The pace that it is taking shape really. I am working on site and I can see something new every day.

“That’s been phenomenal, the amount of progress made in a short space of time, how everything dovetails and that the Irish public will soon have access to an outstanding stadium.”

"The stadium has reached its highest point for concrete. The steel for the upper tier is going in at the moment so it is very nearly at its highest point of the actual building . . . In two months’ time the majority of the structure will be in place . . . The concrete part of the seating for the premium-level ticket holders is virtually complete . . .


410 MILLION : the projected cost in euro, up from 365 million, but most of the increase is down to an IRFU/FAI decision to make certain improvements, including building an underground car park.

191 MILLION : the Government’s financial assistance (in euro), which is capped.

50,000 : the number of spectators the all-seater stadium will accommodate.

18,000 : the number of light bulbs that will illuminate the new stadium.

10,000 : the number of premium seats.

2,500 : the number of people that can enjoy full, seated dining facilities on match days.

1,500 : the numbers that can be accommodated in corporate boxes.

1,400 : the number of rooms.

700 : the weight in tonnes of the biggest crane that will be used in developing the stadium.

400 : the number of journalists that can be accommodated; the press box will normally seat 200.

250 : the number of car-parking spaces; 100 of them will be made available to disabled drivers on match days.

180 : the length in kilometres of cable used.

59 : the number of food and drink outlets.

9 : the number of kitchens.

4 : the number of tiers of seating.

2008 The Irish Times

20% of the seats are premium - how does that compare with the ratio at Croke Park as an example?

Think the stadium looks like it will be smashing but the FAI are taking on a huge gamble with their ticketing strategy by the sounds of things.

10,500 of Croke Parks 83,500 capacity are premium/corporate seats. 12.5% or so.

Seemed like a very high proportion for Lansdowne alright. Rugby can probably justify it but it’s hard to see the same constant demand being there for soccer, especially with unknown opponents.

with 55,000 capacity tho, I’d say they’ll still get it.

I had block booking for Ireland games, but I couldnt be bothered anymore. Travelling up a 120 mile journey to watch shite for €70 a game? And the fact you have to buy 4 tickets in one go is a balls. I know why the FAI do it, and I suppose its the only way they can sell tickets for shite games, but still doesnt make it right. Having to endure the last few games (Slovakia, Cyprus, Serbia) was enough for me. If I was in Dublin still, I’d think about it, but not now. Going up on a Wednesday and getting home at 1 or 2 am after looking at muck doesnt help. Hopefully the ‘tactics’ will be better now with Trap, but he is still a defence first man.