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Do it our way or it won't get built, warn stadium bosses.

Byline: By DAVID WILLIAMSON Western Mail

Political prevarication could stop the Welsh capital gaining two new stadiums, Cardiff City Football Club warned yesterday. Its new plan for the pounds 100m redevelopment of the Ninian Park site involves demolishing the nearby Leckwith athletics stadium before a new stadium is built. This means that from next January to September, many of the nation's athletes would have to train at other facilities.

The club is adamant that the original plan, under which the athletics stadium would not be demolished until a new one was ready, is now unworkable.

Peter Ridsdale, executive deputy chairman, warned that if the council was unable to accept the new plan it would face a fiasco.

He said, 'If there isn't the political will, they lose a new football stadium. Does anyone want to be responsible for killing that?'

Cardiff City estimates keeping the athletics site open would cost pounds 10m more and cause massive delays and logistical difficulties. Under the new schedule, the football stadium will be open a year earlier than planned, in July 2008.

Mike Hall, a director of Capital Retail Partnership - which is responsible for delivering the retail infrastructure - said there could be no return to the original vision.

He said, 'We've got to get the athletes and the council to agree we do it our way. Otherwise it won't happen, and that is the stark choice.'

Politicians, he suggested, feared the new athletics facility would never be completed. Cardiff's Empire Pool had been demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium, but was never replaced.

He said, 'The fundamental difference between [this plan] and the Empire Pool - which is driving the politicians - is that we've got a site, we've got money in the blocked account, and we'll have a signed contract with a major contractor ready to go.'

Comparing this project with the failure to replace the new pool, he said, 'They had no site, no money and no idea where it was going to go. Rightly so, it caused uproar.'

Mr Ridsdale insisted, 'The safeguards we are now offering will guarantee the whole scheme will be finished and completed.'

If the council approves the new plans in September, construction could begin as early as December. The athletics community will lose access to their stadium in January, instead of April as originally envisaged.

The developers have pledged to contribute to travel costs of athletes, who will now train at locations such as the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.

Mr Hall said, 'When you're building something like this there's going to be disruption to somebody.'

Mr Ridsdale added, 'Somebody's delivering a new shopping centre in the city with three years of disruption, because they think the long-term benefit to the city are clear.

'If this city is serious about wanting a new football stadium, a new athletics stadium, and potentially to bid for Olympic Village status for the 2012 Olympics, everybody will work with us to make sure we build the whole scheme in the shortest possible time frame.

'This is the time to say to the city, let's get on and do it.'

He draws inspiration from the speed at which Arsenal's Emirates Stadium was completed.

He said, 'Wembley was started in 2002 and still isn't finished. [Emirates] was started in 2004 and is open.

'We can deliver for this city in the same time frame.'
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 25, 2006
Words:562
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