As an avid, hibernating, quiet, hopeful, stressed Liverpool fan, I was interested in the Fenway Sports Group’s (LFC owner) recent decision to re-develop the current 120-year old Anfield stadium, rather than building a new stadium at Stanley Park.
Having spent several years in the States, I had countless conversations with similarly sports-obsessed intellectuals, involving me bragging about British football stadiums being cathedrals of sport, with decades of tradition, passion and memories.
When I heard about previous LFC owners looking to ‘flip’ Anfield and build a fancy new stadium in nearby Stanley Park, I understood the goal but felt disappointed with the plan.
I appreciate modern sport’s teams are businesses, run by international billionaires/ companies, with financially-motivated goals. It is a game, but there is always the demanding importance of the bottom line. To compete at the highest level, you need funds to develop squads, personnel, facilities and a global presence/following. I just hoped Liverpool could do that, and remain at Anfield.
The redevelopment will cost £152m (including a £25m grant) and will expand the existing 45,000 stadium to 60,000, and more importantly increasing ticket revenue from £40m to around £60-70m (i.e. less than one Andy Carroll….#sigh) . A big deal, when you consider Liverpool play 30+ home games each year.
(NOTE: The Stanley Park development would have cost £400m+ and create a new, 70,000-seater stadium)
So why the new-thinking from the new-owners? Answer: they’ve been through this before.
As owners of the Boston Red Sox, FSG (Fenway Sports Group) were considering redeveloping the iconic and historic, Fenway Park in 1999. Fenway is the oldest stadium in all of baseball celebrating it’s 100th year in 2012. The redevelopment would have be a larger, close replica on a nearby site.
After 6 years of debate and discussion, it was decided to remain at the existing Fenway Park and spend $285m redeveloping and upgrading.
Fenway remains one of the most iconic sporting venues on the planet, with it’s famed Green Monster and central, urban location. Oh, and by the way, Fenway Park sold out it’s 745th consecutive game in June, an all-time record for all US sports.
So today, I tip my cap to FSG… y’all are alright.