EVERTON have identified Walton Hall Park as the site of a new 50,000-seat stadium to replace Goodison Park, their home since 1892.
The club have the support of Liverpool council while the housing association Liverpool Mutual Homes will be an official partner as it intends to build houses on the site as part of a regeneration scheme. The possibilities will now be explored and it could see a formal planning application being lodged within 12 months. Financing will be led by Everton with support from several partners.
Bill Kenwright, Evertonâ€™s chairman, told the Liverpool Echo: â€œOn my journey to our home games, as I pass Walton Hall Park, I inevitably think that I am only a minute away from our beloved Goodison.
â€œFor several years now Iâ€™ve also thought â€˜If only it was available for our new stadiumâ€™, it ticks all the boxes. It would fill me with great pride, it could be something very special for our city, the residents of north Liverpool and all Evertonians â€“ a new home that goes beyond football and does what Everton does better than anyone else.
â€œOf course thereâ€™s enormous work to do â€“ that again involves fixing a huge financial jigsaw â€“ but we are certain itâ€™s an opportunity we should pursue with great commitment, endeavour and ambition.â€
No property needs to be demolished for the project to go ahead, unlike with neighbouring Liverpoolâ€™s long-running saga at Anfield, and the cityâ€™s mayor Joe Anderson says the public will be fully consulted.
Residents close to the park were on Monday invited by Liverpool City Council to â€œexplore the opportunityâ€ at a meeting in Walton Hall Park Sports Centre on 29 September, when they will be briefed and asked for their observations.
â€œThe project will include a new stadium development alongside other potential commercial and retail elements,â€ the invite read. â€œIt is still at a very early stage with a wide number of factors to be developed and we are eager to engage with local residents before any major decisions are made.â€
The new stadium is likely to cost around Â£200m, part-funded by a naming-rights deal and sale of Goodison, but there are no details of how the club would make up any shortfall. Anderson said: â€œThe park is probably one of the most underused in the city, we get complaints about anti-social behaviour and that itâ€™s just used for dog fouling â€¦ and I think a proposal that enhances a park in that area and provides other facilities, better facilities, is a better opportunity for the city.
â€œThe council is going to put some money in and that will be around regeneration, not directly into the football club or stadium, without getting a financial or commercial return.â€
The mayor added that keeping Everton in the city and seeing them contribute to the regeneration of the area is important from an economic and cultural point of view, and that the park is the best option.
Everton have long been looking to move from Goodison and announced plans for a new ground in out-of-town Kirkby in 2006, although they were called in by central government three years later. Previous to that the club could not raise the finance â€“ reported to be around Â£30m â€“ to secure the prestigious site at Kingâ€™s Dock on the Mersey waterfront which now houses the Liverpool Echo Arena and for which they would have been the beneficiary of a substantial EU grant.
â€œWe donâ€™t know how long the journey will take but we wonâ€™t lack stamina or commitment,â€ said the chief executive Robert Elstone. â€œIt is also essential that we bring fans with us.â€ – The Independent