Foster and Partners and hok Lobb were set to unveil final designs for Wembley, the English National Stadium, today at a launch to be attended by Culture Secretary Chris Smith and soccer supremo Ken Bates.
The 90,000-seat scheme is sure to provoke an outcry from conservationists alarmed at the proposed demolition of the famous Grade II-listed twin towers, but Wembley says that the £20 million it would cost to save and 'slide' them is better spent on facilities ensuring that the new stadium lives up to its billing as the uk's premier sporting venue. English Heritage refused to comment until the launch, but is expected to be open to the demolition of the 19m reinforced-concrete towers, provided that the replacement is of a high architectural quality.
Wembley was keeping a tight rein on advance publicity over the scheme as the aj went to press, even on the eventual cost of the project. But it has already secured £120 million of lottery money, and some suggest the final price may have risen to £320-£400 million. Sir Bobby Charlton was being shown the new designs on Monday of this week, three days before the press launch. It is understood he would have seen an ingenious structural device for the roof, which is moving but not fully retractable (aj 24.7.99), and an 'innovative, very intelligent' temporary raised-deck structure to solve the thorny problem of the need for an athletics track while maintaining an intimate distance between fans and the action.
Meanwhile, the backers will also reveal how they will meet the demands of Brent Council, which wants £30 million of area improvements, around £8 million of which would go on roads. Wembley's view is thought to be that it will be solved through Section 106 agreements, arguing that improved dwell time at the stadium will mean less pressure on existing transport hubs. Acoustics have also been heavily worked on to prevent the loss of noise as at grounds like Paris' Stade de France. Recordings have been taken at recent internationals to aim at replicating the experience in the new set-up. The stadium will also have a 200-bed hotel, offices and a 25m concourse outside. A planning application will be submitted in October.