AS Reds Nation goes wild with news that Brendan Rodgers will take over the Liverpool FC Manager, one key piece to the FSG puzzle that remains unsolved is what to do about the proposed new stadium? When FSG first took over they indicated that they preferred renovation over building a new, at nearby Stanley Park….and for several months, that was…well…..that.
However a recent news blurb on the LFC homepage indicated that ‘progress was being made’. No further details were released but at this point it is acknowledged that the Stanley Park stadium design (designed and unveiled during the Hicks/Gillette era to a cost of several million dollars) is officially dead. It is now expected that the club will announce its plans to stay at Anfield and renovate the historical stadium, with Liverpool City Council revealing plans to local residents which would see houses demolished to enable an expansion to the Main Stand and the Anfield Road end.
Looking back at FSG’s history with stadiums, the only available source of data is the famous Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. This year the stadium will celebrate its 100th Anniversary. Both players and fans are pretty polarized about Fenway. Some see it as a lasting tribute to the history and tradition of the team. Others view it as outdated and cramped. Having never seen a game there, I can’t give a personal opinion. In 2005 FSG decided to formally renovate Fenway, spending 10 years and $285M in the process. Could Anfield undergo the same treatment?
Having been to Anfield the seats are significantly smaller than those available at most new stadiums across the globe (but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing). While going through the bowels of the stadium (during the Official Tour) and seeing the locker rooms, press areas, etc it’s clear that the team has run out of room. But in order to expand, nearby houses around Anfield would need to be bought and then demolished for expansion (Editor: something now all but officially confirmed). Old Trafford is an example of a successful expansion, with the ground celebrating its own 100-year anniversary in 2010.
At a meeting held 2 weeks ago, the club’s Managing Director Ian Ayre, alongside the City Council’s Assistant Director for Regeneration in the area, Mark Kitts, met with local residents and presented them with options which would involve the demolition of rows of houses. Kitts stated the homes would be given ‘an open market valuation’, plus a 10% ‘home loss payment’ and removal costs. He also confirmed the club will not have to deal directly with residents, or buy houses – that is the council’s jurisdiction.
“We have been working with the club very closely,” Kitts said, “and they have said this will accommodate their needs if they stay at Anfield and refurbish the current stadium.”
The major obstacle for Anfield stadium renovation is not that of enlarging its ‘footprint’, but in wanting to add an extra tier and corporate facilities to the Anfield Road and Main Stand. In doing so would block the ‘right to light’ of neighboring houses – something which the council believes the plans for demolition would solve.
It appears that FSG recognize that Anfield is part of the Liverpool FC fabric and is no rush to raze it to make way for a new Stadium. But, as with most things in business, time is of the essence. Losing out on potentially 20,000 more fans each match is a significant hit on revenue, not to mention that having a marquee stadium can be counted on for International Friendlies, Champions League Finals, and more.
Most fans at this point (myself included) want to give FSG the benefit of the doubt to make sure they make the right decision rather than rush to judgement and have things collapse later. But how long is long enough?
With the revelation of the projected plans, Liverpool FC have declined to comment, stating: “The private discussions and plans that Liverpool Football Club has or may have with residents or other stakeholders are, in our opinion, exactly that: ‘private’.”
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