The Kingspan Stadium at Ravenhill, which is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union, is located in South East Belfast and houses the administration centre for the game of rugby football in the province of Ulster. Kingspan 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.
The grounds were opened in the 1923/24 season. The ground features an ornate arch at the entrance that was erected as a war memorial for those players killed in World War I and World War II.
Kingspan Stadium at Ravenhill has hosted 18 international matches, including a pool game in both the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. In August 2007 Kingspan 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.
Lansdowne Road, now known as the Aviva Stadium is the main venue for Ireland's international games. Kingspan also hosted the 2007 Under 19 Rugby World Championship Final in which New Zealand defeated South Africa and other pool and semi-final matches.
Since 1924 the stadium has been the annual venue for the Ulster Schools Cup final which is traditionally contested on St Patrick's Day. The stadium is also traditionally the venue for the Ulster Towns Cup played on Easter Monday.
While the Kingspan 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 £5.5million 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 Kingspan Grounds at Ravenhill by building new stands at the Aquinas and car park ends of the ground and to replace the existing grandstand. In 2011, Minister Nelson McCausland confirmed that the request would be granted and £14.7 million of funding was secured in November 2012.
Construction work started immediately and is now complete. Three new stands were built at the ground in a phased approach that saw capacity rise from 11,400 to 18,000.
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. The educational facility will promote 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 has also become the Ulster Rugby Senior squad's new training base with a state-of-the-art gym, meeting rooms and facilities.
The old main stand was demolished and a replacement grandstand built to accommodate 3,450 seated spectators with the new promenade providing standing for approximately 3,400 fans. This stand also has bar and restaurant facilities. The existing promenade was also upgraded. With the increased number of spectators that the new-look ground will be able to hold, Kingpsan Stadium at Ravenhill will be capable of hosting a RaboDirect PRO12 Final or a European Rugby Champions Cup Final.
The Nevin Spence Centre and Kingspan Stadium Tour
Take a journey through the history of rugby in Ulster. Using archive objects, footage and interactives, visitors can discover the roots of Ulster Rugby. Select your dream team, tackle some Ulster players and take on the kicking challenge, as well as learning how technology plays an integral part of the modern professional game.
The stadium tour is an exclusive, behind the scenes experience featuring the changing rooms, tunnel, dugouts and the state of the art, world class training gym. Visitors will get an up-close experience of the pitch and the iconic 1926 Memorial Arch.
This is an unique family experience and a “must see” for any visitors to Belfast for more information visit www.ulsterrugby.com