Football to have a zone of its own, Dome confirms

Coca-cola confirmed yesterday that it will build a replica of Wembley stadium, complete with 30ft twin towers, at the Dome. The Soccer Zone will host presentation matches and training sessions with players such as Andy Cole and Michael Owen.

A Wembley-style royal box and seating for thousands of spectators will surround the open-air pitch, which will be just under full-size. It will be built in time to cash in on the mania expected to grip the country when the Euro 2000 tournament kicks off in June.

Coca-Cola's director of communications Andrew Coker said: "This is a great opportunity for Coca-Cola to demonstrate the closeness we have with football and to put it together with our involvement in the Millennium Festival."

News of the new stadium was revealed at the weekend by the Independent on Sunday. Mr Coker said: "This has come out rather sooner than we expected so we have not finalised whether we will be calling it the Soccer Zone or the Football Zone. The preparations are under way, and work on the stadium itself is due to start very soon."

A spokesman for The New Millennium Experience Company said yesterday: "We are really excited about this. It will definitely be open for the duration of the tournament and if it is a success it will probably stay."

Meanwhile trade unionists did their bit to boost attendance at the Millennium Dome yesterday by marking the May Day holiday.

Amid extra security in case of rioting by anti-City protesters, who have threatened to target the Dome, 23,000 trade unionists and their families heard talks on the minimum wage, tackling racism and recruitment.

Their presence made yesterday one of the busiest days for the Dome last month after organisers admitted that the figures over Easter were disappointing.

The NMEC had high hopes for the Easter holidays after the success of the half-term break in February, but the crowds stayed away.

Despite longer opening hours, half-price offers and new attractions, 120,072 people visited in the week leading up to Easter Sunday. That means around 17,000 a day - but they need 30,000 to break even.

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