Roof Slip Stalls Wembley

Work on London’s Wembley Stadium suffered another setback when the site had to be evacuated for a day because part of the roof gave way.

At 8:30 a.m. March 20th, an 80-ton steel rafter in the roof slipped, broke free of its temporary steel connections and fell 18 inches.

All 3,000 construction workers were taken off the site, which remained shut until the night shift started at 7 p.m.

According to the U.K.’s The Independent, Martin Kidd – managing director of developers Multiplex – described the incident as “minor” and said the roof structure had not been affected. He said preliminary findings suggested there was no fault with the design.

He reportedly denied that safety was being sacrificed to complete the project, which is months behind schedule and has led to estimated losses of £150 million for Multiplex.

Witnesses described a loud bang and one said a team of three steel fitters who were working on the rafter at the time were very lucky to escape uninjured.

“I heard a really loud bang and looked round and saw the lads running away. There were about three people really close to it; they were beside it working on it at the time and had a very lucky escape,” one witness told The Independent.

Multiplex ordered an immediate investigation but said it expected business as usual within 24 hours.

On March 21, the site was due a visit from soccer VIPs including former players from the England-Germany 1966 World Cup final.

Although the Football Association is protected against the cost of construction delays, as Multiplex is on a fixed price, it still stands to lose an estimated £1 million on each international match that has to be shifted to another ground.

As for live music, there seems little chance that any of the dates scheduled before August are likely to happen. The Rolling Stones shows on August 20th and 22nd may be the ones to open the new stadium but, in view of the project’s history of disaster and delay, a safer bet might still be the five shows that Robbie Williams has slotted for November.

Lord Foster’s £475 million design was unveiled in 1999 and the project was scheduled for completion before the end of 2005. It will open at least six months later than expected and cost more than double the original estimate.

The first live show in the arena, which has had a £35 million facelift, is Depeche Mode April 2-3. Other confirmed acts include B.B. King and Gary Moore, Il Divo, Eagles, Take That, Santana, Black Eyed Peas, Westlife, Will Young, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Two months ago, Live Nation announced it has signed a five-year contract to run the venue for Wembley (London). About 30 staffers have already transferred from Wembley to Live Nation.

– John Gammon