Leicester's £35m new home given go-ahead

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The Independent Online

Leicester City's plans to build a new stadium have been given the go-ahead. The club are hoping the £35m switch to a new ground at Freemen's Wharf - near to their existing Filbert Street ground - will be completed in time for the 2002-3 season.

Leicester City's plans to build a new stadium have been given the go-ahead. The club are hoping the £35m switch to a new ground at Freemen's Wharf - near to their existing Filbert Street ground - will be completed in time for the 2002-3 season.

Following a 45-minute debate about City's plans for the new 32,000-seater stadium, councillors gave their unanimous approval to the project.

The news delighted Steve Kind, the club's chief operating officer. "This is a very exciting time. This is a major step forward in our desire to build a new stadium," he said. "There are still a number of issues to be addressed in the coming weeks, but this is obviously an important hurdle negotiated."

City's stadium plan will now move forward for ratification by the full council and the completion of a number of planning agreements between the local authority and the club.

Leicester will also be calling an extraordinary general meeting of their shareholders to seek their approval of the stadium project. The cost of acquiring the 22-acre plot is expected to cost £7m, with the ground itself costing a further £28m to build.

Kind said: "It is one of the most important decisions in the history of the club in terms of new stadium development - although there is a little way to go yet to complete the project.

"Leicester City Council's decision was a vital one for the club in terms of the whole process. In everybody's eyes, including those of local residents, this is the best location for our development.

"We will remain right in the heart of the city, literally a hundred yards from Filbert Street. We believe that remaining in the city, in terms of job creation, will also be better for the club.

"The feedback we have received from everyone has been very positive about our plans.

"Everybody seems to be pulling together to ensure the success of the project.

The club want the approval of shareholders by the end of March, and have one eye on starting work on the site in May.

Kind added: "We would need to be doing just that if we were to have any chance of achieving an August 2002 objective.

"But if for any reason we were unable to do that August 2003 is our back-stop date for the actual opening of the new stadium.

"We have always been cautious about our whole approach to the planning application over the past year, but now we are confident that any problems can be overcome in the next two or three months."

Kind believes a move is imperative if the Foxes are able to compete at the top level. "With Southampton opening their new stadium in time for the start of next season we will undoubtedly have the lowest capacity in the Premier League as well as the worst stadium facilities," he said.

"The quality of the facilities on three sides of Filbert Street is unacceptable in today's football market and I believe that with the new amenities for families and other groups it is likely that an attendance of around 27,000 will become a regular feature at our new stadium.

"I also think the new stadium will put the club on a firmer foundation and on an elevated platform in terms of its status.

"The fans will benefit from the improved facilities but the stadium will also improve viewing for everyone - at Filbert Street a lot of the stadium is restricted in the view of the action that is offered to supporters." The club will make a decision about the name of the new stadium later this year.

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