Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 16:16 UK

Gates open at new national stadium

By Shane Harrison
Dublin correspondent

Aviva stadium
The new 50,000 all-seater stadium is the culmination of many years' work

All day final preparations were being made for the official opening of Dublin's new Aviva Stadium, with the pitch being mowed here and a spring clean of the corporate boxes there.

For Philip Browne, chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union, the new 50,000 all-seater under roof stadium which replaces the old Lansdowne Road ground is the culmination of many years' work.

"It's been a long road and there have been many bumps along the way, but I think you'll agree what we have is a fantastic facility," he said.

John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, agreed.

"I think there'll be great memories in this stadium. There'll be games won and lost, there'll be bad decisions, good decisions, but I think the most memorable day I'll ever have will be today," he said.

The Irish government provided 191m euros for the project which cost 410m euros.

More than 6,000 people were employed over the three-year construction period.

The old Lansdowne Road was an old grey building, leaky, and it wasn't a great place to bring your family and friends
Ray Houghton

But for former rugby internationals like Keith Wood, it's great to be back at Lansdowne Road, after the temporary exile at Croke Park the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

"I think Croke Park was phenomenal for Irish rugby. It did a great job," the former British and Irish Lion said.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the GAA, without a shadow of doubt, but yet it's still great to get back to your spiritual home."

The Aviva stadium looks unusual.

Its glass-like roof undulates like a wave to avoid blocking the light of the homes of some residents.

And in these eco-friendly times it harvests rainwater, is big on heat recovery and acoustic panelling.

For former Republic of Ireland midfielder, Ray Houghton, the new ground couldn't be more different from the old one.

Woody try
Keith Wood had some great moments at the old stadium

He said the Aviva "looks a proper stadium, somewhere you'd be proud to come and play at. The old Lansdowne Road was an old grey building, leaky, and it wasn't a great place to bring your family and friends."

With every seat under the roof, former Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner believes the supporters in both soccer and rugby will once again become an extra man.

"The secret weapon we always had was our fans and this will probably be intensified now.

"The fans are now right in on top of the pitch and I think the atmosphere will be exceptional," he said.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen officially opened the stadium on Friday afternoon. In these troubled economic times he was mindful of the money sport brings into the Irish capital.

"The IRFU and the FAI have estimated that a minimum of five soccer and rugby internationals a year could be worth upwards of 250m euros to the economy," Mr Cowen said.

"When you factor in international events such as the Europa League final in 2011 and a Heineken Cup final in the not too distant future, the potential is huge."

The first match on the pitch, for which a County Armagh company, Richardson's, is responsible, will be at the end of July when the up-and-coming rugby players in Ulster and Leinster will take on a selection from Munster and Connacht.

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