SBJ/September 30 - October 6, 2002/International

Nationwide clubs planning new homes

Financial pressure on soccer clubs in England's Nationwide League isn't stopping them from building new facilities, or at least planning them. Two clubs in the league, which lost its cornerstone television rights deal last spring when ITV Digital collapsed, have taken steps toward construction of new stadiums.

Welsh club Cardiff City, in the second of the Nationwide League's three 24-team divisions below the Premiership, has received the green light from local government for plans to build a $150 million sports and retail complex.

The Cardiff City Council has given the club the exclusive right for 18 months to develop property across from its current stadium, 22,000-seat Ninian Park, where it has played for more than 90 years.

Cardiff City plans to meet the total cost on its lonesome. The new stadium is designed to seat 30,000 at the start, with the possibility of expanding to 60,000.

Ninian Park would be turned into housing.

In the First Division, Coventry City Football Club has formed a joint venture company, Arena Coventry Ltd., with the Coventry City Council to make its 32,500-seat stadium project a reality after long delays.

On Sept. 24, Arena Coventry named Birse Stadia Ltd. to build the $90 million stadium in time for the start of the 2004-05 season. Birse is scheduled to complete Third Division Hull City's new $70 million stadium in November.

The new Coventry complex is to be owned by the council, which will lease it back to Arena Coventry.

Coventry City's home since 1899, the 23,615-seat Highfield Road stadium, has already been sold for residential use.

Jay Stuart is editorial director of SporTVision magazine and Sports TV Report and Sports Investor newsletter.

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