Stadium decision in two weeks

After rushing into revealing plans for a new stadium that later turned out to be too expensive, it seems the club’s current owners are being a little more cautious with their decision over which of the latest plans to go with.

After taking over the club early in 2007, co-owner Tom Hicks criticised the stadium design that had been produced prior to his arrival. In July he revealed new and astounding plans for a very unique stadium. The club were given planning permission for this version, but the rush to show the plans off meant that no accurate costings had been carried out. When they were, the stadium was more expensive than expected, and the owners weren’t able to get finance for it on the terms they wanted. Eventually Rick Parry admitted that those plans were being thrown out, and that two companies – HKS and AFL – would be submitting new plans for a ‘downgraded’ stadium.

Those plans were presented to the owners and Parry in New York yesterday. It had been expected that a decision would be made by the end of the week, but according to a Hicks spokesperson that’s not the case.

The spokesman said: “We made excellent progress on the choice of stadium design and hope to have a final decision in the next two weeks.”

With the stadium already delayed by some years another couple of weeks will make little difference. The new plans will require new planning permission, and given that it sees an increase in the initial capacity of the stadium that may not be a clear-cut process. The plans approved last year had an initial capacity of just over 60,000, with flexibility to increase that to somewhere in the region of 78,000. The capacity on the earlier plans was set to 60,000 because of worries that the local infrastructure could not cope with anything more than that number of visitors on a match day, a situation that the owners planned to help improve before the stadium opened.

Chief Executive Rick Parry was impressed at both sets of plans, but said that the board now need time to reflect on what they were shown: “It was a very full day. We had two very detailed and very informative presentations which were very thorough and extremely professional. It has been another big step forward to finding the best possible solution and the whole meeting was very constructive. Everyone is reflecting on what they have heard and a clear decision will be taken soon.”

Parry suggested that there was no clear-cut winner from the two sets of plans: “They were both very good in terms of coming closer to the right solution. As ever, when you have a competition you hope it produces outstanding results and I think that is what we have seen today. Whichever we do go with it will be an excellent result.”

The reason that Liverpool had been looking for investors was to enable a new stadium to be built, and so increase revenues from home games. Anfield holds 45,000 supporters, which is much lower than competing clubs in the top flight. The new owners also felt that executive facilities were not good enough, and hoped to increase revenue in that area too. The new stadium will be built on Stanley Park, as part of a much-needed regeneration plan for the area.