Hailed as a ‘momentous’ moment by Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, the club has finally broken ground on its £500m project to build a new stadium in Liverpool docklands. Tony McDonough reports
Everton FC and its main contractor Laing O’Rourke have broken ground at Bramley-Moore Dock as work starts on the construction of its new £500m stadium.
Club chairman Bill Kenwright, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale and former Everton striker Graeme Sharp were at the Liverpool Waters site on the banks of the Mersey to watch an excavator make the first incision into the ground.
On Monday, July 26, Everton took possession of the site in Liverpool’s northern docklands on the banks of the River Mersey. Laing O’Rourke immediately began putting in place welfare facilities for the near 12,000 construction staff that will work on the project during the estimated three-year build.
It is hoped Everton will leave its current home at Goodison Park in Walton and kick off the 2024/25 Premier League season at the 52,888-capacity arena. The entire build is scheduled to take around 150 weeks in 12 separate phases. The initial enabling works are expected to take 32 weeks and are being funded by majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri.
Everton is urging fans not to travel to Bramley-Moore Dock during the project for safety reasons. They will be able to view progress via a live webcam on a special website set up in the next few weeks.
As work got under way, Mr Kenwright said: “This is a momentous day. One that we have all been waiting for. To know that Evertonians and the people of this great city are together with us on this journey is a special feeling.
“Now that the work has commenced we can all watch our magnificent home as it comes to life. I am stating the obvious, but must reiterate that this day could not have happened without Farhad’s continued support on every level and the drive and determination of our chief executive Denise, and her team.
“In a few years’ time we will, of course, be bidding the fondest farewell imaginable to our cherished home at Goodison Park.
“That sad day will be made easier because we know we are going to an astonishing new stadium that will bring our fans and their children – and their children’s children – the kind of joy throughout the next century that we have all shared in Liverpool 4.”
A ceremony to mark the first breaking of ground is traditional in development and forms part of the required enabling works to the eastern quayside, which will eventually become home to the Fan Plaza – an area that could welcome more than 9,000 fans on matchdays.
Work is currently continuing to repair and preserve the Grade II listed dock wall, to stabilise the listed hydraulic tower, the raking of the dock floor and preparation for the demolition of existing non-listed structures. Pipework is also being laid ahead of the infilling of the dock in the autumn.
It has been estimated the stadium will deliver a £1bn boost to the city’s economy and provide up to 15,000 jobs for local people (12,000 during the construction phase). It is also estimated that it will attract around 1.4m visitors to the city and more than £255m will be spent through the local supply chains.
Liverpool City Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved the plans for the stadium on February 23 but it wasn’t until May that Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said he would not be ‘calling in’ the scheme. This cleared the final hurdle allowing the build to begin.
Opposition to the plans came from heritage groups including Heritage England and the Victorian Society who objected to the Grade II-listed Victorian dock being filled in. The main opposition came from UNESCO which called the project “completely unacceptable” in respect of Liverpool’s waterfront World Heritage Site.
The go-ahead for the stadium proved to be the final straw for UNESCO after a stand-off with the city that began in 2012 over development on the waterfront. In July senior officials finally stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage Status.
Denise Barrett-Baxendale added: “Breaking ground is a significant milestone for this project, for our football club and our city region. It is a tangible symbol of Everton’s future and a clear signal of our club’s ambitions. Today’s ceremony represents the culmination of an extensive and robust planning process.
“It delivers an exciting new future for our football club, invests in our local and national economy and supports our community as our region builds back better following the impacts of the global pandemic, while also ensuring the city’s oldest professional football club remains in our spiritual home of north Liverpool.
“I’m delighted we have been able to share today with the internal and external team of planning, construction and engineering partners who have worked tirelessly to make this project happen. I know for them it signifies a real starting point in the development phase of this transformational scheme.”
Chris Capes, Director of Development for Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters, also said: “After years of hard work, it is great to see Everton taking ownership of Bramley-Moore Dock and breaking-ground on this game-changing £500m project here at Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters.
“Everton’s new stadium will transform the city’s waterfront, accelerate regeneration, and support social and economic growth for North Liverpool and the wider Liverpool city region.”