Agreements have been signed with all the homeowners in the area around the stadium and a planning application for the new Main Stand, which will increase the capacity of Anfield to an initial 53,250, was put in place this week. Liverpool hope to eventually take the capacity to 58,000 with a second phase expansion of the Anfield Road stand.
Extending the capacity of Anfield has been an issue that took two previous owners to sell because they did not have the finances to complete the deal. FSG, who also own US baseball team the Boston Red Sox, will start building as soon as they get the go-ahead from city planners.
“I have to agree with the idea this is a monumental moment for us as a club,” said Werner.
“This will be our legacy at Liverpool, resolving the stadium issue. I am as proud of protecting and preserving Fenway Park in Boston as I am the three World Series we have won and will feel exactly the same way about repeating this at Anfield. It will be the most exciting day at Anfield in 2016 when we can welcome the additional supporters to the stadium.
“I think this will change the future of the club. What has been hanging over the club’s head is we simply could not accept the status quo. We did not want to make any promises that could not be delivered so we wanted a solution, but a solution was not as simple because of cost and time issues. We could have built a new stadium but we always felt the fans have an emotional attachment to Anfield, just like the Boston Red Sox with Fenway Park.
“It’s been a process with a lot of twists and turns in part because we were dealing with property owners and neighbourhood in addition to the conception issues, deciding the right scheme and the cost. Everything is expensive. In addition to normal discussions about renovation there have been a lot of discussions about property acquisitions.
“A solution is a modern stadium but if you solve problems such as seat comfort and ease of access getting to and from the park and all those things related to the surround infrastructure – we thought we could redevelop and this would be the best solution. I also like the idea of a phased approach so we will develop in stages.”
FSG's original plan was to build a new stadium nearby at Stanley Park, but there was too much of a financial risk.
“A question we had to ask was could Liverpool sustain a 65,000 seater stadium on Stanley Park?” said Werner.
“It was an issue in itself. If you can guarantee Champions League football every season than absolutely, the answer is yes, but I’m not sure anyone can be certain of that. That makes our approach much more sensible, allowing for further expansion of the Anfield Road.
“We have been working on Fenway in stages since 2004. We have taken the capacity from 32,000 to 36,000 but there is more to it than an extra 4,000 seats. We spent £250 million of our own money to improve the ballpark and enhance the quality of the whole experience for those who watch the games.
“We were well aware of the disappointments the fans had felt for such a long time. Now we have exciting, real plans we can put into place, not just by expanding Anfield with 9,000 seats, but so everybody will see and feel the benefits. Just walking to the stadium and seeing the landscape will be an improvement.
“There is an emotional connection with Anfield which is similar to that at Fenway Park. When we bought the Red Sox we had an informal poll and there was a 50-50 split between those who wanted to stay at Fenway and those who wanted a new ballpark near the river. Really, you had to ask the right question and say to those who wanted to leave, what if we show you what we can do? Today, if you had the same poll I am sure 94 per cent would agree we made the right decision. It was not so much Anfield versus Stanley Park as have we really done all we can to establish what can be done at Anfield?
“We believe we can fill the corporate areas. Some of that is dictated by success on the pitch and we are certainly confident we are making a sound business decision.
“It has to make sense from a financial point of view. The improvements will eventually pay for themselves. Liverpool and Boston have a lot in common. They are not the capital city, or in the case of our rivals in New York the financial capital of the US.”
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