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Juve plan to halve stadium capacity

MILAN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Italian champions Juventus plan to halve the capacity of their Delle Alpi stadium as part of a redevelopment of the Turin venue which will include building 200 executive boxes.

Juventus chief executive officer Antonio Giraudo said they expected to sign an agreement with the Turin city council next month which would allow them to begin work on the much maligned stadium.

Giraudo said the new stadium would keep the modern exterior but added the athletics track would be removed and the new stands would be close to the pitch.

'From the outside it will be as it is today which is an architectural wonder. The outside is the best thing about the current Delle Alpi. Inside however we will produce a stadium for 35,000,' said Giraudo in an interview with the daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

The stadium, in the Turin suburbs, was built for the 1990 World Cup finals but has never won the affection of fans of Juventus and Torino who share the venue.

On paper the stadium currently has a capacity of close to 70,000 but is rarely full and only 55,000 fans are expected for the top-of-the-table clash with Inter Milan on Sunday.

One of the design problems with the stadium is that fans in the front rows have an obstructed view due to the placement of advertising hoardings.

The athletics track was supposed to allow the Delle Alpi to be used for major competitions but the absence of a warm-up track means that few top-class athletics events have actually taken place.

The major complaint from fans has been that the open nature of the ground and the distance between the pitch and the stands dilute the atmosphere.

Giraudo said the re-designed venue would represent a radical improvement for fans.

'The fans will feel as though they are on the pitch. There will be 10 metres between the supporters and the players, which means the fans will be closer than they are at the San Siro,' he said.

The San Siro stadium in Milan, shared by Inter and AC Milan, enjoys one of the best atmospheres in the game - it has a capacity of 80,600.

Rome's Olympic stadium holds around 70,000 fans, so the changes to the Delle Alpi will leave Juventus, Italy's most popular team, with a stadium capable of holding around half the amount of spectators as their main rivals.

The club are hoping that the 200 executive boxes, with space for 2,000 guests, will boost revenues and provide sponsors with a place for corporate entertainment.

Currently the Delle Alpi, owned by the Turin city council, has limited facilities for hospitality.

Giraudo said the new venue would be ready by 2006 and would cost £75million.

The club also plan a new training and entertainment centre which will cost £80million. Giraudo said construction would begin at the end of this year.

Prior to moving to the Delle Alpi Juventus played at the Comunale stadium in the centre of the city, close to Torino's old home the Filadelfia.