Old Trafford gets £30m facelift

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The Independent Online

Lancashire are set to stay at Old Trafford, their home for almost 150 years, but their pavilion - one of the most historic and recognisable in the game - could be on the move.

The club unveiled plans yesterday which will see it continue to play at a rebuilt Old Trafford rather than up stumps and move to east Manchester, near Manchester City's new ground, or to Wigan.

"We want to be the capital of cricket outside Lord's," the chairman of Lancashire's business committee, Michael Cairns, said. "The chance to redevelop a tired, old stadium - which has been ignored for a Test in the 2009 Ashes - comes because the local council plans to build a new civic centre."

That would free the site of the present Trafford Town Hall, across the road from the ground. Although details have still to be finalised, it is envisaged that the cricket club would expand on to that site, using it to generate income through activities for which it has no room at the moment.

That would enable Lancashire to press ahead with a £30m rebuilding of Old Trafford without going into debt.

"It's a stunning opportunity," Cairns said, admitting that the club had looked closely at Wigan and Eastlands.

"We have been in discussions with Lancashire for many months, as we are committed to doing what we can to help them stay in Trafford," the council leader, Susan Williams, said.

There is likely to be one major change to the status quo, however. The Old Trafford pavilion, which is, unusually, square to the wicket, could be moved, stone by stone, to a new position behind the bowler's arm. "It's far easier to move the pavilion than move the wicket," Cairns said.

The decision to stay and redevelop Old Trafford, hopefully by 2009, will have to be ratified by the club's members, but the Lancashire chairman Jack Simmons believes it will meet with their approval.

"The members will be highly delighted," Simmons predicted. "And 'Freddie' Flintoff wanted us to stay here. In his benefit year, he might be able to pay for most of it."

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