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Wembley Stadium gears up for government Olympic bid

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The company behind the £300 million rebuilding of Wembley Stadium is anxiously waiting for Cabinet approval of a uk bid for the Olympics in 2012 before briefing its architects to lift capacity by 10,000 to 100,000.

Bob Stubbs, chief executive of the Wembley National Stadium Limited (owner of the stadium since March) is masterminding work on the prestige project by architects Foster and Partners, Hlok and Lobb Partnership. He told the Stadia & Arena 2000 conference at London Arena last week that full designs will be launched at the end of July. But in an interview after his speech he said that a decision will need to be made in the next few weeks on the Olympics and that he would expect the extra cost burden of around £50 million to be met by government since it would 'undermine' the business plan he has laid out for the stadium. 'You either do it or you don't' he said. 'Time moves on and we're very near the critical point. We're having discussions at the highest level in government about these issues'

The stadium design currently envisages 90,000 seats, 10,000 above the minimum required by the £120 million Sports Lottery grant which Wembley received. Stubbs' business plan is to focus on corporate hospitality as a revenue generator, with 10,000 seats in the that sector, as opposed to 1,500 in the current Wembley. The new-look stadium will also have 'the biggest banqueting room in London' for gala dinners, a better visitor attraction on the history of the building targeting 500,000 visits every year for non-match days, concert staging facilities and a 200 bed, four star hotel. Bodies such as the Football Association will also relocate to offices in the ground.

Stubbs, who worked on the ill-fated Cardiff Opera House and Cardiff Millennium Stadium, which has also been beset with problems, said one of the key aims was to design flexibility into the stadium for changes over the next 50 years, without 'sterilising' it. 'No-one in the 1920s would have thought that the Wembley would still be standing and functioning' he said. Each seat will be cabled to allow the installation new technology such as video screens for action replays, one example of 'future-proofing'.

The roof is a 'moving' though not retractable one, and Stubbs promises a new innovation in dealing with the athletics track requirement. Lower tiers of seating can often be moved over the track to get closer to the football action when matches are staged, and retract on runners for the athletics. 'You will not have seen a stadium solving the problem the way this does.'

Wembley views the 'tortuous' planning system as a potential hold-up, but hopes to win planning consent in March 2000, begin demolition in September 2000 and open in 2003. The Foster scheme envisages demolition of the 'twin towers' but this would require listed building consent.

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