Anfield's £100m redesign to include '96th Avenue'
This is Anfield in 2016. Liverpool have released the first images of the £100m stadium redesign to expand Anfield to a 53,250 capacity.
A revamped Main Stand will be completed in the next two years and add 8,250 seats and increase the club's matchday revenue closer to that of Arsenal's £90m per year.
A formal planning application is expected next month, at which time Liverpool will also seek permission to expand a second stand – the Anfield Road end – by 4,825 seats. That would take the final capacity to 58,000, but the stadium will retain its historic identity with four, individual stands.
Liverpool have no immediate timescale on when the second phase of the development – that will cost a further £50m – will go ahead, with the initial focus being on the Main Stand.
A new '96th Avenue', to include the Hillsborough memorial, is also a fundamental part of the first phase of development.
Deals are agreed in principle with all the property owners in the Anfield neighbourhood – acquiring their signatures being the final obstacle to planning.
Although nothing will be taken for granted it is inconceivable that, after years of consultation, approval will not be given by city planners for club owners Fenway Sports Group to press ahead, the intention being to start construction in January 2015 and complete for the start of the 2016-17 season.
Architects KSS have designed the new stand, although Liverpool are currently in the process of agreeing a deal with constructors. Although Liverpool have ruled out a stadium sponsor for Anfield, they will consider naming rights for the Main Stand.
Ian Ayre, the club's managing director, said that the unveiling of designs represented a key milestone in the saga of the stadium project, which has been stalled for 15 years under three successive regimes. "It's a significant step forward," he said.
"With the club stepping forward on the pitch this season it's fitting that we're able to feel that we're making progress on the stadium. We've said all the way along that we'll have to have certainty and we're careering towards certainty on the properties.
"We are going into a consultation process on planning and then the next level of certainty for us is the planning stage. We can't just presume that we'll get planning permission but again we'd like to be optimistic about that.
"It would be fantastic for the football club and the fans if we can continue our progress on the pitch and with the stadium because, hand in hand, they support each other.
"We set out a clear set of objectives and timescales to achieve what we want to achieve on the stadium and it's very much on track.
"Although for the fans it feels like it's been a 10-year or more wait, under this ownership we've been at this in earnest for two to two and a half years and we've made progress in keeping with the plan we set."
A key element of the new design is accommodating an expanded corporate area, essential to enable Liverpool to close the financial gap on Premier League and European rivals.
Liverpool make around half the matchday revenue of Arsenal and it is the London club they want to match longer-term. Although there is a season ticket waiting list of 20,000 at Anfield, Ayre said the club had to err on the side of caution before leaping directly to a 58,000-seat stadium.
"Obviously for all the big games we could sell out a lot more than we do," he added. "But when you're doing the financial model for a stadium or an expansion you have to look at every game, including other competitions, and you also have to look at when you don't do so well because this thing's got to be paid back whether you're doing well on the pitch or not.
"You have to take a sort of pessimistic view of performance. You have to model not to play in Europe.
"We know we've still got about 20,000 on a season-ticket waiting list and corporately we did a study which shows there is a demand there, but the proof is in the pudding. This is phase one." (© Daily Telegraph, London)