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Political Football - Stadium Related

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Political football

 

Pitch battle: Everton FC's plan to relocate to a new stadium at retail-led regeneration scheme Destination Kirkby is facing opposition from Liverpool city council and local residents' groups.

 

Own-goals, tearful walk-offs, rapid swerves and breathtaking changes of fortune - nothing Everton Football Club does on the pitch can match the painful drama of the club's efforts to build itself a new stadium.

 

A decade after efforts first began to replace its aging ground at Goodison Park in the north of the city, the football club is still years from moving into a new home. Plans for a stadium at Liverpool's Kings Dock on the southern side of the city centre collapsed in 2003.

 

Second time round, and now councillors in the Merseyside borough of Knowsley have given the go-ahead to proposals for a 55,000-seat Everton stadium as part of the long-awaited regeneration of Kirkby town centre. Everton wants its new home off Cherryfield Drive to be finished for the start of the 2010-11 season.

 

The £400m Destination Kirkby project is intended to create a stadium that is linked to a 50-shop retail scheme and a Tesco Extra superstore, totalling more than 500,000 sq ft, on a site at the edge of Kirkby town centre.

 

And with Sir Terry Leahy, chief executive of Tesco, being an avid Everton fan, it might be thought that the development was unstoppable.

 

But to fulfil this plan, a barrage of objections will have to be overcome - including those of Liverpool council and local residents' groups.

 

Problems have been mounting since the planning application was lodged in January. Liverpool council announced that it regarded the scheme as a threat to Grosvenor's Liverpool One, and declared that the scale of the stadium development was "not appropriate to the role and function" of Kirkby, a town of around 40,000 people. Other local councils in the conurbation agreed.

 

For their part, Everton FC's bosses have responded to the objections by saying that any delays could be fatal to the plan. Much to the club's chagrin, Knowsley council's Liberal Democrat opposition leader has been calling for locals - many of whom would not welcome a massive stadium on their doorstep - to be given a referendum.

 

Lib Dem leader Ian Smith says: "We should push for this planning application to be called in and go to the Secretary of State. I'm sure the club would be genuinely concerned by that, but Everton, like the rest of us, should be concerned too about the residents of Kirkby. The real concern is about increased traffic and potentially anti-social behaviour that a stadium in the middle of a dense residential area will bring."

 

Ian Ross, Everton FC's head of external affairs, is hopeful that a call-in will not be imposed. He says: "The plan could still get called in, but I'm hoping that, with backing from a Labour council and support from the local Labour MP, a Labour government might see it as not worth calling it in. But a delay of a year while we have a public inquiry could kill this."

 

Unlike the failed Kings Dock stadium plan, Ross says that funding issues will not be allowed to derail the project. "All parties know exactly what they must provide financially," he says. "If we can get planning permission and avoid a government call-in, all three parties are comfortable with the finance. Last time, the Kings Dock plans were spectacular - in retrospect, perhaps too spectacular - and the cost rose all the time. Eventually, it just became financially unviable, and Everton carried the can for that failure. We went away and learned a great deal. This time, developing Kirkby is attractive to Tesco, and the council is anxious to

regenerate a town that hasn't changed much since the 1960s."

 

Everton FC insists, however, that if it is forced to choose between a new stadium and having the necessary funds to invest in its players, the players will win - and the Kirkby plan will be off.

 

"The primary concern," Ross says, "has to be to look after the team, and if you go back to the all-seater stadium developments of 20 years ago, you'll see that some teams paid a heavy price for investing in their stadiums and neglecting their squads. We won't do that."

 

He adds: "We spent two years talking to Liverpool council about a site in the city, and it couldn't come up with anything that could be made financially viable because we couldn't attract a retail partner."

 

Ross says that if planning permission isn't granted - or comes too late - Everton will reconsider the redevelopment of Goodison Park.

 

For now, with tempers fraught and local opinion polarised, the risk of a call-in is high. And if the scheme is called in, its delicate mathematics could be placed under unsupportable pressure. Everton could be staying at Goodison Park for some years yet.

 

What is planned

 

The £400m Destination Kirkby scheme is a retail-led, mixeduse regeneration led by Tesco and Everton Football Club. The scheme includes 50 shops, a 55,000-seat stadium for Everton FC and a Tesco Extra store. The plans to revitalise Kirkby town centre were originally submitted to Knowsley council in January. These plans were amended in April.

 

A later amendment has reduced the retail space planned by almost one-third, from 775,000 sq ft to 540,000 sq ft. The Tesco store is 110,000 sq ft.

 

In April, Tesco bought the land north of Cherryfield Drive earmarked for most of the retail element in a £65m deal with Development Securities. The consortium says that the deal ensures that the whole of Kirkby town centre is included in the regeneration plans.

 

Destination Kirkby - adding it up

 

Despite the confidence emanating from Everton FC, the economics of the Kirkby project are finely balanced, so much so that the latest efforts to placate critics by reducing the retail element by 25% could put viability at risk. BothTK Maxx and Marks & Spencer have said they would not be interested in a smaller scheme.

 

Sheena Ramsey, chief executive at Knowsley council, says that the economics of the scheme are precarious but do-able - just.

 

"The recent reduction in floorspace does not endanger the financial viability of the scheme, but it makes it very, very tight," she says. "We are hoping that this scheme will attract other commercial opportunities - for instance, creating office space.

 

"As for a plan B, we would hope we could encourage other investors into the area if the stadium plan isn't a success. It would be disappointing, but we have raised the profile of the site and raised expectations and aspirations."

 

Everton FC is expected to find £78m of development funding. The sale of Goodison Park isnot expected to be much of amoney-spinner. Estimates of its value vary between £7m and £9m.

 

Everton's contribution will be added to a £52m sum from the Tesco-led retail development.

 

In 2007, Everton plc made an after-tax loss of £9.4m, if player trading is included. The club made a loss of £505,000 on normalnon-player trading activities. Fixed assets were listed as £26.5m, with debts of £53m.

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and potentially anti-social behaviour that a stadium in the middle of a dense residential area will bring.

 

lol do the residents of kirkby want us to believe that Kirkby is currently a pleasant place to walk around at night an no one has an ASBO? I don't think so...

Oh and although I am on the fence on this one, it will be egg on their faces (Kirkby residents) if the stadium & regeneration doesn't go ahead and Kirkby remains a shit hole.

 

Article is actually a good read, where is it from?

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It is a good article.

 

The anti-social behaviour argument makes me laugh also. I feel completely at ease walking with my lad (and wife, if she ever wanted to come) among 30,000 footie fans but Friday/Saturday night in virtually any town or city center in the country is another thing altogether.

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It's from a subscription only magazine called Estate Gazette.

 

I found Ian Ross' comments interesting about the Labour government, it sounds as if he knows it is a flawed application but hopes they turn a blind eye to it because it's from a Labour council.

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I've never seen this said officially before...

 

Ross says that if planning permission isn't granted - or comes too late - Everton will reconsider the redevelopment of Goodison Park.

 

....have I just missed it?

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Have there been any plans drawn up for Scotty Road or is it just a lot of words yet? I would be interested to see what the stadium would look like there. I know some folks have said it is not good enough (or words to that effect) but I would like to make my own mind up on that. Love to see what sort of scheme they have in mind over that.

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Yes and no.

 

There's been things drawn up but they are just basic sketches.

 

HOK Sport, the company who designed Wembley, Emirates and Croke Park have all said it can fit a 50,000+ stadium. The guy who planned St. James Park redevelopment said it can fit a 75,000+ stadium with the right contingency plans in place.

 

Everton say it can cope with 32,000 stadium.

 

A copy of the full HOK Report has been sent to the GONW and Secretary of State, but only the conclusion has been released on the internet so far.

 

Some related links:

 

http://www.keioc.net/index.php?page=scotland-road

http://www.keioc.net/index.php?page=hok-report

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2277430/Scotland-Road

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2261251/KEIOC-Plan-C-Loop

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Thanks for those Links Louis :speak_cool:

 

Have you a favourite plan youself? I only ask as you seem to be in the know more than myself.

 

(Hate the thought of Kirkby)

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Originally I was in favour of Kirkby!

 

I'd be happy with a redeveloped Goodison Park as it keeps heritage especially if it could be done to a standard like Croke Park.

 

I also like the idea of Scotland Road :)

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