Two years after being bought by the Boston Red Sox owners, English soccer team Liverpool today said it plans to redevelop its Anfield stadium rather than build a new facility.
The decision is similar to the one that kept the Red Sox at Fenway Park after its ownership, led by John W. Henry, in 2005 ended years of discussions by announcing the baseball team would remain in its facility. Liverpool said as long ago as 2003 that it planned to leave the ground that has been its home since 1892.
“I think the process and the progress we have made in those two years is actually phenomenal, really, in the timescales for such a major proposition as an expansion of Anfield or a new stadium,” the 18-time English soccer champion’s managing director Ian Ayre said in an interview published on the team’s website.
“That doesn’t detract from the 10 years that people have had to wait, but I think it puts into perspective the hard work that’s gone to reach the decision today,” he added.
Fenway Sports Group took control of Liverpool in October 2010 after paying off bank debts owed by former U.S. owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Liverpool announced earlier this year that it wrote off almost 50 million pounds ($80 million) in costs related to moving to a new stadium, including architectural designs for a 70,000-seat arena made of glass and steel that was proposed by Hicks and Gillett.
Liverpool didn’t say how much the stadium refurbishment would cost. The Daily Telegraph today said the capacity of the 45,000-seat arena will be increased to about 60,000 in a 157 million-pound project.
Liverpool had previously ruled out enlarging Anfield, citing difficulties in getting planning consent. The stadium is located amid a maze of row houses in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“I know a proposition of staying at Anfield has been looked at before, but fundamentally the difference is that for the first time ever all of the relevant parties are coming together for a common initiative, and that common initiative is not for the needs of the football club but actually the needs of the community,” Ayre said.
It’s unclear when building work will start, said Ayre, who added that the club needs the assistance of the local council to ensure it can purchase land and property adjacent to the stadium.
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