(P.98) At last... £700m deal saves Wembley in extra time
by Dennis Campbell, The Observer 9 December 2001
WEMBLEY Stadium, scene of England's 1966 World Cup triumph, is to be rebuilt in a £700 million deal intended to banish Britain's reputation for sporting incompetence, The Observer can reveal.
In a decision that ends years of chaotic wrangling, the Football Association and the Government have finally decided to replace the London landmark with a new national stadium to host major football matches.
Tessa Jowell, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, is expected to confirm the decision in an announcement to the Commons on 17 December. She will also publish the Government-commissioned report into the national stadium issue by businessman Patrick Carter, which has paved the way for Wembley's unexpected reprieve.
Demolition is likely to start in the spring and Wembley should reopen in summer 2005, with either the Charity Shield or an England game as its first match. The FA has rescued the project by dispelling growing doubts about the project's financial viability. Crucially, the £400m needed to finance the new Wembley will be borrowed by Multiplex, the construction company which has agreed to build the stadium within 39 months for £326.5m, rather than the sport's governing body itself.
Several banks, including Barclays, have agreed to loans, and the FA will now put in £100m. Debt repayment will bring the total cost to around £700m.
The new Wembley will be a cheaper, slimmed-down version of the design unveiled by architect Norman Foster in July l999. It will still have the planned 90,000 seats and towering arch - which will replace the Twin Towers as Wembley's signature - but will no longer include a hotel and office block.
Ministers were appalled at the prospect of negative publicity if the venue which staged English sport's finest hour was left to rot. It closed in October 2000 and has been unused since.
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