The €365 million redevelopment of Lansdowne Road stadium is on schedule to be completed by April 2010, according to the developers.
The public was given a first glimpse of progress on Saturday when busloads of local Dublin 4 residents were shown around the site.
Work on the 50,000-seat stadium began in May last year. It was originally envisaged that it would be completed by the end of 2009, but that was delayed because of difficulties in getting planning permission.
The main contractor, Sisk, has been given a completion date of April 2010, after the end of the RBS Six Nations tournament and at a time when there will be no major World Cup qualification games.
Project director Michael Greene said: "We're well on target, but it's a very tight programme. By finishing in April 2010, we won't be under major pressure to get something on very quickly in the stadium. You have to have warm-up events and make sure that everything is running properly."
The foundations and first floor of both the new east and west stands have been completed. By late March all the foundations on the stadium footprint will be finished. This week work will start on the grand stairs, which the stadium developers hope will become an iconic feature of the new stadium. It will be built over the rail corridor for the Dart and will take fans to podium level in the new west stand by stairs and by escalator.
An underground car park for 300 cars, which includes 200 disabled places, will be completed by June this year. It will be used as a temporary car park for workers on site, and a new back pitch will be built on top of it. The current number of 360 workers is set to rise to 1,000 later this year when the steelwork begins.
Sections of the east and west stands will be up to roof level by July, when the roof steel will be put on. It is envisaged that the horseshoe outline of the stadium will be apparent as early as September this year. "The finish shape will be on the horizon. You'll see the shape from the structural steel," Mr Greene said.
The roof will be the last part of the superstructure to be completed. Most of 2009 will be devoted to the internal fittings. The pitch will be laid in August 2009 and will be ready in March 2010.
Residents, many of whom bitterly opposed the project, were largely supportive of the development on Saturday, though some complained of late-night working and the presence of rats.
Local area councillor Dermot Lacey, who is on the project management committee, said: "It has impacted on local residents more than we thought it would. Personally, I would like to see a little bit less night-time working, though, in fairness, the stadium company has tried to respond to issues as they occur." Stadium spokesman Roddy Guiney said the IRFU and FAI were satisfied the development was on budget.
The number of companies being considered for naming rights to the stadium has been whittled down from 18 to eight, and the winning bidder will be announced by the end of the year.
The rights will cost €60 million and will last for 15 years. "The level of interest has been very positive and reflects the fact that there won't be an opportunity like this around for a long time to come," said Pádraig Slattery of Slattery PR which is handling the naming rights along with the London-based company Wasserman Media Group.
The Irish Times