Echo: New owners want 76,000 capacity

Tom Hicks and George Gillett will next be at Anfield on March 31st for the visit of Arsenal by which time it’s hoped there’s more clarity about their wishes to make the new Anfield bigger than expected. Today the club’s chief executive Rick Parry confirmed that all work on the new ground had been brought to a temporary halt until the new proposals had been finalised: “They are conducting a very swift review of what is possible. Yes work has been halted very temporarily, but their commitment to the new stadium is total, there’s no question of that.”

As Parry says, it would be almost negligent of the new owners not to investigate alternative possibilities for the new venue, considering their own experiences in US venues in the past. “If there is going to be a review of what might be possible, now is the time,” said Parry. “If there are going to be any changes, however, it will be a case of scaling up, not downscaling. They are experts in this field and I’m constantly hearing phrases like ‘best in the world’.”

Parry hinted further at the desire to at least allow for a future increase in capacity: “They just want to understand exactly what the options are for the future. If there are ways of constructing the stadium which would allow for future expansion, they want to investigate it. It makes perfect common sense.”

When Rick Parry announced some time ago, before any new investment in the club had been found, that it was impossible to ever expand the new stadium once it was built it was met with derision by many people. Parry was quite clear at the time though – it could not be expanded once built. Hicks and Gillett obviously saw this as a challenge: “They don’t want to steam ahead into something which might prevent expansion in the future. Construction deadlines won’t change, however. Any changes will be discussed in the next few weeks and actual building-work will commence on the planned date.”

An idea for the new ground which keeps being mentioned is the use of underground executive boxes, which allow guests to be entertained in luxury before being taken up to the stands by lift to watch the actual game. Hicks has this facility at his Texas Rangers stadium, a legacy from when George W Bush was owner and wanted a safe place for his father to watch the game – his father was the president at that time. It’s an idea that’s taking off in the US with Dallas Cowboys planning similar features in their new stadium.

Hicks had said last month that the plans were being reviewed by their own US architects, saying: “We said, ‘Here are the constraints, take a fresh look and see if there are other ideas we can incorporate on the inside that would make it more fan-friendly, produce more revenues and give more customer satisfaction’. They are working on ideas – What we have to do is strike a balance between new ideas and Yankee ingenuity at the same time as protecting the traditions of Liverpool and Anfield. We’re going to do that very quickly.”

As for the underground executive suites, known as “bunker suites”, he said: “We kind of stumbled into the concept of the bunker suites. But it’s essentially an underground living room where you can go down and have fine food, fine wine, big-screen TVs, and then go up and watch the pitch live.”

According to the Liverpool Echo, the figure the new owners have in mind for the capacity is 76,000, very close to the 80,000 that Rick Parry had dismissed earlier in the day. The story was written by chief sports writer and Everton correspondent David Prentice rather than the usual Liverpool FC correspondent Chris Bascombe.