Everton’s chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale has said the club is “the most confident it has ever been” on securing funding for its new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, while admitting that costs have risen to around £500m.
The stadium at the dock previously had a price tag of around £300m, with Barrett-Baxendale’s predecessor Robert Elstone saying in January last year that the club’s funding target had “escalated significantly”.
The club has since brought a stadium project director, ex-Laing O’Rourke man Colin Chong, on board to lead on construction, and Barrett-Baxendale said the costs are currently estimated at around £500m.
“Each month those costs can change subject to the market but we will be ensuring costs are appropriate. If reconfiguring Goodison Park was an option we would have done that years ago, and there’s no option for us to say we won’t be progressing with a new home,” she said, at a Q&A session hosted at Liverpool’s stand, chaired by Place North West editor Jessica Middleton-Pugh.
She added the stadium was “crucial” to improve the club’s competitiveness and commercial offer, with securing funding for the scheme “the most important objective” for Everton at present.
While Barrett-Baxendale said discussions with funders were ongoing, she would only say the potential funders were “the people you would expect as well as the city council,” adding: “We’re the most confident we have ever been to secure funding”.
Discussions with contractors are ongoing, with Lendlease tipped last year, along with Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke as construction firms who had held discussions with the club.
Rather than funding and delivery, the risk of a call-in for the club’s planning application was cited as the biggest barrier to development by the club’s chief executive: “If it does go to a call in, we need to show we’ve listened and responded to people’s concerns.
The stadium, designed by architect Dan Meis, has a capacity of 52,000, which could reach up to 60,000 with a safe-standing option. Barrett-Baxendale said the club could have the option to increase capacity further in future, issuing “a call to arms” for the fans to attend games and get behind the project.
Detailed designs for the project are expected by the end of the year, and although preliminary designs were leaked earlier this year, Barrett-Baxendale said there were “no images” of the stadium to share.
Heritage issues, including the development’s role in the waterfront’s UNESCO World Heritage Status, have been raised, although the club’s chief executive reassured the audience the architect “had been briefed” and Everton was “ensuring the design team respect the dock and bring new life to an area that’s currently abandoned”.
A three-week consultation on the plans was held in November, with the club outlining plans for the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock followed by the demolition of Goodison; the former stadium will then be redeveloped to house community facilities, healthcare uses, and new homes.
Everton has already completed a lease agreement with Peel L&P to assume a 200-year lease on the dock, subject to the club receiving planning permission.
It is expected the stadium will take around three years to build with completion pencilled in for 2023.
Barrett-Baxendale said the Goodison site represented “a big opportunity for the football club to do something unique”, with education, housing, retail, and healthcare all potential options.
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