THE historic main jumping arena at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) showgrounds is to be given a facelift as part of a €100 million five-year development plan for the Ballsbridge property.
As this year’s Fáilte Ireland Dublin Horse Show ended on a high note last evening, preparations were being made to begin work immediately on the next phase of developing the arena to a multi-purpose sports ground with a capacity for 18,000 spectators.
Wooden seats, which have been part of the Anglesea Stand since 1928, are about to be replaced with bucket seats. Upgrading of the stand itself will then take place.
New floodlighting has already been installed and the main arena surface has been completely relaid and irrigation and drainage systems installed at a cost of €850,000.
Leinster will play 13 rugby games (three Heineken Cup and 10 Magners League ties) at the venues this season with the first game fixed for September 22. RDS chief executive Michael Duffy said the customised sand, soil and grass surface will give a top equestrian performance but will also allow other sports such as rugby to be played on it at other times of the year.
He said feedback from riders who competed on the surface at last week’s horse show and the teams competing for the Aga Khan Trophy was excellent, which was very satisfying.
“We can move on now and continue to keep the event as the premier international horse show in keeping with our mission statement to support the breeders and producers of Irish-bred horses,” he said.
The upgrade of the main arena to a multi-purpose sports ground is central to the development plan, which includes refurbished facilities and office blocks to generate income. Changes have also been introduced to the structure of the 134-year-old horse show.
Mr Duffy said the society was very satisfied with the five-day horse show, which cost €3.3 million to stage, had €720,000 in prize money and involved 1,400 horses and ponies in showing and jumping classes.