Robert Elstone has provided some of the most substantive insights to date into Everton's proposed new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock in a podcast interview with Nick Mernock, Chair of the Everton Fans Forum.
The club's Chief Executive touched on many of the salient issues around what promises to be a major chapter in Everton's history, one that could see the Blues kicking off in their new home in August 2021 if an aggressive timeline can be met.
"Proximity and steepness"
Elstone explained how the design team at Meis Studio have been asked to push the limits of what is possible for the Blues' new ground, within the parameters, Fifa- and Uefa-imposed safety guidelines so as to optimise the matchday atmosphere inside.
“The [criteria for creating] atmosphere will be around proximity and steepness; they're the two things. The designers have been challenged to bring the first seat as close as possible [to the pitch] and to make the last seat as steep and as close as we possibly can.
“They've already done some experimenting around cross-sections and they've done some really compelling [ones] where they're comparing them to existing stadia and our seats are all nearer, the seats at the back are all nearer.
“There's a really strong business case for that because probably the most important revenue stream that the new stadium will deliver is 35,000 to 40,000 season ticket holders who are going to come back year after year and who can't wait to renew their season ticket.
“If we can create something that is atmospheric and intense, I think that's really going to help with season ticket retention.
“The other business case is the need to create a fortress. What I've said to the design team is, if you ask me for one single design brief it would be to start every game with a goal advantage. Now I know that's a bit cliched in a way but if you start every game “with a goal advantage”… the biggest stream of revenue that we have is TV revenue and a big slug of that is a merit reward based on where you finish in the table.
“Every one of those places are worth about two million quid. If you create a stadium where opponents don't want to come and play and our players grow another 12 inches, we've created an environment where we're more likely to win games. There's a very strong commercial reason for doing that so we can get those merit payments.
Home end and capacity
The CEO also expressed his desire to avoid what he feels was an oversight at stadia like the Emirates and the Etihad by ensuring that there is a clear home section at Bramley-Moore Dock. In doing so, he tacitly indicated that the new structure would not be in the form of a traditional bowl or uniform rectangle.
“I think we'd like to try and create a very obvious and compelling home end and to do that, there will be a degree of asymmetry in the stadium. The home end could well be bigger and I think that is something that would work for us.
“We are still not absolutely decided on capacity and part of the consultation process [with fans] will help shape that. We're much more confident of being bold and ambitious on capacity than we were two or three years ago. We have got a genuine waiting list both in terms of general admission and premium seats.
“And we are flexing our muscles [in the transfer market] and showing genuine ambition on the pitch which will help.
“Ultimately, where we get to on capacity isn't decided yet but I think we'll be ambitious and I think the number will be a big one.
“The other aspect of this is Bramley-Moore Dock is an amazing location but it will be a tight fit so there will be an economically viable limit to what we can do. The design teams are looking at what might be achievable and we're looking at the incremental cost of adding those one, two, three, four thousand seats beyond where we currently are to see if it's economically viable.
“We won't be shy of ambition. The size of your stadium is a big statement of intent and ambition and as a club that's pushing for Champions League and wants to win trophies, we want a stadium that reflects that ambition.”
Mernock asked Elstone if he could allay Evertonian concerns over potential compromises to the stadium's design and construction or simple disruption that might be caused by Liverpool hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The city is in the running to win a bid to host the athletics event and Mayor Joe Anderson has been trumpeting Everton's Bramley-Moore Dock development as being central to that bid.
The CEO explained, however, that the club's philosophy around accommodating the event would be just like any other non-football occasion and that for seven days, the stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock would host athletics but afterwards it would appear as though nothing had happened.
“If [Liverpool] is awarded the Commonwealth Games, Everton will undoubtedly benefit from a lot of the related development of infrastructure and building adjacent to Bramley-Moore Dock. That would be a big advantage to the football club.
“We have, however, said that we would be delighted to accommodate athletics in our new stadium so long as it doesn't compromise design and so long as it doesn't compromise timetable.
“So, we are pushing on to get in the stadium as soon as we can. We're still aiming for August 2021. That will be very difficult to achieve but we still believe that if things fall into place and we push on hard, it is still potentially achievable.
“If the Commonwealth Games do come in in 2022, a running track will be installed without disruption to the infrastructure of the stadium, it will be pulled out without disruption to the core of the stadium, and it will be ready for us to kick off [again] in August 2022.”
Naming rights and heritage
On the topic of naming rights for the new ground, Elstone admitted that the location of Bramley-Moore Dock makes for an especially attractive partnership for potential sponsors and that Everton would have to be careful about “diluting the check” by trying to incorporate a more romantic name to the new development.
Instead, he says that Dan Meis' love for Goodison Park means that plenty of the club's traditions are likely to be carried over to the new design, words that will come as music to the ears of many fans.
“In terms of reflecting tradition, heritage, and bringing some of the features of Goodison with us, Dan has fallen in love with Goodison and Everton and he is constantly looking at ways of reflecting… whether it's Archibald Leitch signature architecture or the seats in the Gwladys Street or different views or the flavour of the concourses, he is looking to bring that with us.
“The most important thing we can do is make sure that this new stadium is adopted quickly; comes that new home quickly. That will be about design, atmosphere but it will also have an element of familiarity. Dan is really committed to that and we'll make sure he will.
“We want to hear fans' views. We are very conscious of creating a destination where fans feel comfortable and can get there early, meet friends and family, to mix and socialise in a very natural environment.
“There will be messaging about ways to get involved put out through the club's communication channels so fans should look out for the best way to do that."
You can register to be part of the consultation process at this page on evertonfc.com.