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Coventry gets the blues as stadium move is put back

City's football club does not expect to compete on Arena Coventry pitch before start of 2005/06 season

COVENTRY City Football Club is set to miss its deadline for moving into a new stadium as contractors wrestle to meet the council's budget for the Arena Coventry scheme.

The football club was due to move into the new ground at Foleshill gasworks to the north of the city by December 2004, but bid sources said the stadium would not be ready until the beginning of the 2005/06 season.

One insider close to the project said:'The council has just about accepted that the December deadline is unrealistic and that we're looking at completion for the following season.

'There is almost no way you could get it done in time. Besides, it would probably be awkward for a football club to switch grounds in mid-season.'

Client Coventry North Regeneration (CNR) - a wholly-owned subsidiary of the city council - is weighing up bids for the £60 million deal from just three contractors after Mowlem pulled out of the running for the scheme.

Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine and Taylor Woodrow are all left vying against each other for the deal. But the trio are understood to be struggling to meet the client's budget of £53.8 million quoted in the tender documents.

A second source said: 'We've given them various options on what they can have for their money but it will be a matter of components and specifications, such as which parts of the complex will have air conditioning.

'I would be very surprised if £53.8 million is CNR's final budget though.'

CNR will choose a contractor for the stadium in September. The complex will also include an 8,500 sq m exhibition centre and a casino underneath the main stadium, which must be handed over next year for an extensive £15 million fit-out.

Birse was originally in line for the scheme but walked away in March. The firm got cold feet on the deal after losing £5.5 million on Leicester City's stadium when the club fell into administration.

CNR chief executive Paul Fletcher was unavailable for comment.