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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK


Wembley loses twin towers

The capacity of the national stadium will be increased to 90,000

Wembley Stadium's twin towers are to be replaced by four sky-scraping masts, under a massive redevelopment of the home of English football.

Paul Newman: "Soon the twin towers of Wembley will be no more"
The futuristic glass and steel design, which was unveiled by its architect Lord Foster and Culture Secretary Chris Smith, will cost £475m - compared with original estimates of £320m.

But organisers insisted the increase did not represent an overspend, saying it in fact represented the bill for a series of enhanced facilities not included in the original design brief.

After months of speculation it was confirmed that the towers would be demolished - despite a campaign from football supporters to retain them.

[ image: Four giants masts will dominate the skyline of the new structure]
Four giants masts will dominate the skyline of the new structure
Instead of the landmark, the north-west London ground will boast a quartet of steel masts, towering 400ft over the entrance.

The redevelopment of the ground will turn it into the centrepiece of England's campaign to host the 2006 World Cup.

Mr Smith praised the design, saying the new Wembley would be "the finest arena in the world".

He said: "Trying to match a stadium as legendary as the current Wembley was a daunting challenge, but Norman Foster and his team have come up with a stunning design.

"There will be nowhere on earth better to stage the 2006 World Cup Final."

Pitch rotation

Glass walls surrounding the expanded structure will provide a spectacular backdrop for spectators as they walk up a refurbished Wembley Way - before taking their places in six tiers of seating overlooking the pitch.

Watch the official video of the computer generated views of the new Wembley Stadium
The pitch is expected to be rotated through 90 degrees from its current position and the arena will be given a running track, an indoor warm-up area, improved dressing room facilities, as well as themed bars and restaurants.

Conservation body English Heritage earlier confirmed they were withdrawing their objections to the removal of the towers.

[ image:  ]
The architects considered keeping the existing towers - but early plans meant they would end up sitting in the middle of the pitch. There was a proposal to build replica towers, but this is believed to have been abandoned.

Lord Foster explained that keeping the towers would have involved a massive engineering operation costing at least £20m

"You've got to have a pretty good justification for doing that and for me I can't think of a strong justification," he said.

"The towers were emblematic at their time, but that was a long time ago and things have moved on."

Three-year revamp

The new stadium will increase the ground's capacity from 75,000 to 90,000.

Chris Smith: "I am looking forward to the building of a major new stadium"
The existing structure will be demolished next year and the new structure is scheduled to open its gates by 2003.

The former owners of the stadium, Wembley plc, sold the ground to the English Football Association (FA) earlier this year.

Lord Foster is famous for numerous multi-million pound projects all over the world, from Germany to China, including airport terminals, skyscrapers, museums and public buildings.

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