Walton Hall Park believed to be the preferred stadium site.
Everton FC’s search for a new 50,000-seat stadium site has been narrowed, with Walton Hall Park believed to be the preferred location.
Plans for the ground, which would rely partly on public funds, also include new homes, education and health facilities as part of a wider complex.
Everton are unable to comment on the location, just a mile away from their current Goodison home, due to commercial sensitivities but the ECHO understands that talks with architects and planners are ongoing.
Toffees chief executive Robert Elstone said the club are “cautiously optimistic” about the proposed scheme, but stressed that funding remains the major obstacle.
He said: “It’s a scheme that, if it comes to fruition, will deliver jobs, houses, education and welfare alongside a fantastic new ground for the club.
“It’s exciting but there is a word of caution. What’s critical in terms of bringing this to fruition is how much this will cost us. It’s important we build it as cost efficiently as possible. We will need to do a great naming rights deal and we will also need to bring on board partners in the public and private sector to make the thing stack up.”
Everton initially revealed they were exploring a preferred location for a potential new stadium in collaboration with the council last June, and while some other sites have not been fully ruled out, most of their efforts are now centred on making their vision for the 130-acre Walton Hall Park scheme a reality.
A team of external advisers, including regeneration experts and designers, have been consulted on the proposed venture.
Elstone said that various ways of paying for the move are still under consideration.
The ECHO understands that one method could entail a similar scenario to that at Manchester City, who are tenants at their Etihad Stadium after the ground was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is still owned by Manchester City Council.
In order for a similar bid to work on Merseyside, the Blues would have to work with Liverpool council to secure significant regeneration funds.
They will also require a lucrative naming rights deal along with other backing from the private sector.
“The key partner is Liverpool City Council,” said Elstone. “We’re working very closely with them and they’re being incredibly supportive.
“The public and private sector mix is important. Support from the public purse whether that’s through grants or other forms of subsidy; and whether it’s regional, national or European, we have to investigate all possibilities of securing public funding into the project.
“That’s one of the reasons why our scheme is so heavily focused on jobs and education and welfare; to essentially support and sustain those sorts of grants and subsidy moneys.
We’ll need commercial partners alongside that to make the whole jigsaw fit together.”
Elstone added that the Blues board are also still examining issues around the likely levels of debt a stadium move would saddle them with.
“It’s important I manage expectations,” he said.
“There are a number of obstacles to overcome before we push on with it and the central one is about the economic model of moving home.A lot of the new stadiums which have been built over the last 20 years have had a compelling business case behind it which is; they were short of capacity and had a long waiting list.
“If you have that combination you build it and your business plan looks pretty rosy.
“In that case we will have an element of that but it’s not as significant an element as some of the other clubs who have moved.
“There will be some intangible things about future proofing the football club going forward.
“There will be an intangible about whether it will help us attract new investment. It’s difficult to put those things down in black and white and ink them into a business plan.
“That’s exactly what the board is looking at and why we’re looking at this great opportunity.
But there are also risks associated with it, which will be the level of debt we’d need to take on and whether it’s the right thing for the club to put that debt on its balance sheet and service it over the next 10, 20 or however many years.
“That’s not a decision to be taken lightly and one the board is currently on with.”