A thrilling and ambitious plan for Everton’s new Bramley Moore Dock home has been revealed by chief executive Robert Elstone.
The Toffees are looking to move into a new 50,000-capacity stadium in the coming years.
In an illuminating podcast with Everton Fans’ Forum chairman Nick Mernock – as reported by the Liverpool Echo – Elstone described:
A desire to stay true to Everton’s ‘People’s Club’ philosophy with an arena which does not focus on corporate customers and shows the world “a different way” to build stadia.
A ‘bold and ambitious’ capacity.
A clearly defined ‘home end.’
A willingness to constantly canvas fans for their views.
In a 25-minute podcast aired on the Blues website today Mr Elstone told Mr Mernock: “This is incredibly exciting and it is a real honour to be involved in shaping it.
Listen to the podcast here.
“I’m very, very much driven by building a stadium for the fans.
“A lot of stadia which have been built post-Taylor report have focused very heavily on premium seats and the corporate customer and I’m not sure that’s right – even for those clubs – but I know it’s not right for Everton.
“For me, building a stadium that will work for fans is a great opportunity to show the world there is a different way to do this.”
The Blues intend to learn from mistakes made by other clubs and are keen to recreate the unique atmosphere generated at Goodison Park by not losing the proximity to the pitch of their supporters.
Mr Elstone added: “We have all experienced stadiums where the atmosphere isn’t great – and listen, at the end of the day the atmosphere is largely dictated by the people who sit in the seats – but the stadium can play a big part in that.
“I am constantly baffled by the distances between touchlines and first seats and it seems some stadiums have been built with a very conservative approach to creating that space.
“There will be safety issues, but once you’ve gone past the safety limit then you put your touchline in.
“That’s what I think we should be doing and I’ve said to our design team ‘I want you to challenge regulation. I don’t want you to breach safety rules, but anything that’s an option, a guideline, a regulation, let’s test it, let’s push it.’
“The designers have been challenged to make the first seat as close as possible and to make the last seat as steep and as close as we possibly can.
“What we want to do is to create a fortress. What I’ve said to the design team is ‘if you were to give me one single design brief, it would be to create a stadium where we start every game with a goal advantage.’
“I know that’s a bit cliched, but if you create a stadium where the opponents don’t want to play and where our players feel they grow another 12 inches we are creating an environment where we are more likely to win games.”
That design is likely to feature a clearly indentifiable home end.
New, bowl-shaped stadia like Arsenal’s Emirates and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium – clubs who previously boasted famous home terraces like the North Bank and the Kippax End – now no longer have definable home sections.
Mr Elstone is keen to avoid that happening at Bramley Moore Dock.
“If you go into the Emirates I really don’t know where the home end is,” he said. “Is that important? Are the Arsenal fans bothered if there isn’t an obvious home end?
“It’s the same at the Etihad. Where did the Kippax end up?
“It’s not easy to see and I think we’d like to try and create a very obvious and very compelling home end. We are seeking fans views on that.”
Capacity is still being considered, but given the current appetite for Everton matches – every single home match was sold out last season and there is currently a waiting list for season tickets – the Blues are likely to opt for an ambitious figure.
“We are much more confident of being bold and ambitious about capacity than maybe we were two or three years ago,” added Elstone. “We have got a genuine waiting list in terms of general admission and premium seats which is fantastic.
“Ultimately where we get to isn’t yet certain. but I think we wil be ambitious and bold and the number will be a big one.
“There will be a physical limit or an economically viable limit to what we can do, but design teams are looking at what is achievable.”
The Blues are still aiming to be in their new stadium by August 2021, a “challenging but potentially achievable” target, but Evertonians will have to become accustomed to the idea of a sponsor’s name attached to the arena.
Mr Elstone added: “Naming rights is a huge opportunity and is even bigger at Bramley Moore Dock than it might have been at another location.
“The visibility of that site, the fact that it will be photographed and broadcast more than any other stadium simply because of where it is, presents a brilliant opportunity for a naming rights partner.
“The reality is we will be playing at the X Y Z brand stadium and the reality is if we dilute that in any way, we dilute the cheque.
“Romantically and nostalgically is that we want? No. But commercially that’s the world we live in.
“But in terms of reflecting tradition and heritage and bringing some of the features from Goodison with us, Dan Meis is our architect.
“Dan has fallen in love with Goodison Park and Dan has fallen in love with Everton.
“Dan is constantly is looking at ways reflecting that heritage, whether it’s Archibald Leitch signature architecture or whether it’s the seats in Gwladys Street or different views, he is looking to bring that with us.
“We want to hear our fans’ views.
“We will only get this where we want it to be by putting it through the rigour and scrutiny of our fan base.
“We are in the process of developing a key principles document to shape the debate and provide a framework for the debate rather than a blank piece of paper.”