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Manchester City plans to transform neighbourhood

The club has signed a deal with the city's council and an urban-development firm to redevelop the rundown land around the team's Eastlands stadium.

ABU DHABI // Manchester City Football Club yesterday signed a deal with the city's council and an urban-development firm to plan a multimillion-pound redevelopment of rundown land around the team's Eastlands stadium. The agreement should see a transformation of the district, which is one of the poorest areas of the city. It could create thousands of much-needed jobs in the community. Some media reports estimate the value of the project at 1 billion (Dh5.5bn), although sources at the football club and council said it was too early to estimate the size of the investment.

The club, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, is believed to be planning to build a training complex on unused land around the ground, together with increasing the stadium's 48,000-seat capacity. The first phase of the plan would involve the creation of a "market place-style fan zone", on Joe Mercer Way, the current approach to the stadium. Organisers aim to offer improved facilities to fans visiting the ground on match days, together with year-round sports opportunities for local residents.

The project will encompass around 200 acres of land, including the existing Sportcity district, which was developed during the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is home to athletics tracks, a squash centre, tennis complex and velodrome, in addition to the City of Manchester Stadium, the official name for Eastlands. A Metrolink stop is also set to be incorporated into the Sportcity site, as part of an expansion of the local transport network.

"Manchester City has been and always will be at the heart of the community it serves in the City of Manchester," Garry Cook, the club's chief executive, said on its website. "The longer-term considerations for the area reflect the long-term commitment of our owners to the club and the community it serves." The club has recently completed a 14-month study of leading sporting facilities around the world, which will form a basis for discussion as to what additional football facilities may be added.

"The collective strength of the council and the club, two very ambitious partners, will be the engine of economic growth and will build on the regeneration work already in evidence in the area," said Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester city council. The third partner in the scheme is the urban-development company New East Manchester. @Email:chamilton@thenational.ae

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