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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 25, 2008

Reds appoint US firm to build new stadium

Liverpool have announced that Dallas-based architects HKS have won the battle to build the club's new £300million Stanley Park stadium.

HKS produced the original designs for the 71,000-capacity arena which were rejected by co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett late last year when they ran £50million over budget.

But after revising those plans, and beating off Manchester-based AFL's rival bid, the American company will get the contract for the new ground.

Hicks, Gillett and chief executive Rick Parry met in New York earlier this month to study both new designs.

AFL produced the plans originally agreed before the American duo took over the club. They were dropped by Hicks and Gillett and they have again found their revised scheme rejected.

The announcement over the stadium's future comes ahead of confirmation that the refinancing of the club owners' loan deal has also been agreed.

The refinancing will mean the American duo have a firm stranglehold on the club, despite opposition from fans' groups, and they are likely to sanction the permanent transfer of on-loan Javier Mascherano as soon as the £9million transfer of Mohamed Sissoko to Juventus has been agreed.

Hicks and Gillett are trying to re-establish their fractured relationship with the Anfield support and, by allowing manager Rafael Benitez the funds to buy £17million-rated Mascherano they are also intimating the Spaniard has a long-term future at the club.

However, that situation will not be clear until the summer when this season's performance will be assessed. A top-four position is crucial, plus a decent FA Cup run - Liverpool play none-league Havant and Waterlooville in the fourth round on Saturday.

It is also possible Benitez will have to beat Inter Milan next month in the Champions League to placate the Americans after their public fall-out with the manager.

But for now the stadium decision is the first step towards settling the crisis that has engulfed the club.

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.'

Liverpool still insist that the new stadium will open in 2011, and its centrepiece will be an 18,500 new Kop, an increase on the current Kop of 5,000 extra seats.

Laing O'Rourke, the largest privately-owned construction firm in the UK, has also been appointed.

The American owners will now hope that a string of positive decisions on the new stadium, a potential deal for Mascherano and implied confidence in Benitez, will take the sting out of a situation which has seen their standing with the fans severely damaged.

Key to the new moves has been the re-financing deal that has caused the American owners so much trouble in recent months, igniting more moves by Dubai International Capital to buy them out.

Hicks has resisted those moves and it is expected that their £350million re-financing plans will be formally announced shortly.

It is believed the actual breakdown of the deal is £185million to cover the original takeover loan by Hicks and Gillett a year ago, £60million to cover the old debt plus £60million as a start-up for the new stadium.

There is also £45million for signings and working capital, but whether that is for new signings or last summer's spending spree is unclear.

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