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Stadium plans signal Americans intent to stay at Liverpool

sports Updated: Jan 25, 2008 18:25 IST
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Liverpool have appointed Dallas-based architects HKS to build a new 71,000-capacity stadium close to their current home at Anfield, the club announced on Friday.

The announcement came as the club's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, were reported to be on the verge of concluding a refinancing package which will enable them to provide start-up funds for the new stadium, which is projected to cost at least 300 million pounds and open in August 2011.

It will also be seen as a further sign of Hicks and Gillett's determination to retain the club, despite mounting opposition to their ownership among fans and renewed interest from Dubai Investment Capital (DIC) in a possible takeover.

Hicks and Gillett's standing with the Liverpool supporters has deteriorated sharply following their revelation earlier this month that they had talked to Jurgen Klinsmann about possibly taking over from Rafael Benitez as the club's manager.

Benitez remains hugely popular with the fans, having led Liverpool to two Champions League finals in his first three seasons in charge.

But his personal relationship with the owners has been strained since he publicly criticised their transfer policy at the end of last year.

The Spaniard has been particularly irked by the club's failure to secure the services of on-loan midfielder Javier Mascherano on a permanent basis, although that issue is expected to be resolved once the refinancing deal has been concluded.

The construction of the new stadium, which will have an 18,500-seat single tier stand behind one of the goals in a recreation of Anfield's famous Kop end, is to be project managed by KUD International, an American group which managed construction of Philadelphia Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field and the San Francisco Giants' AT and T Park.

Hicks and Gillett had rejected an earlier design for the new stadium from HKS on cost grounds, having earlier ditched plans for a 60,000-seat stadium from Manchester-based architects AFL.

Hicks said: "HKS has developed a more efficient design that, at the same time, is just as stunning as its original design.

"Liverpool supporters should have high expectations for the future: a premier sporting experience at their new stadium at Stanley Park and a winning Club on the pitch for years to come."

The new stadium will be the second largest in England, with only Manchester United's 76,000-capacity Old Trafford bigger.

With Anfield, the club's home for over a century, holding only 45,400, the switch to the new stadium should significantly enhance Liverpool's match-day revenue from ticket sales and hospitality, although some sceptics have questioned whether they will be able to consistently fill such a large stadium.