American architect Dan Meis was on Merseyside this week conducting a series of Supporter Workshops in relation to the Bramley Moore Dock stadium project and the overriding consensus of opinion seems to be that they were a resounding success.
Meis, and his two associates Frank and Mario, presented concept designs – not the finalised plans – for the new stadium at BMD and spent time explaining many of the issues they’re having to deal with in order to provide Everton with a new home in time for the 2022/23 season.
Profile and birds-eye views of how the new concept might fit onto the footprint of BMD and in relation to other club stadia were presented and of course, the somewhat sensitive and emotional subject of the eventual crowd capacity was broached.
Dan Meis referred to a ‘magic number’ that many supporters take to be the 61,878 that has been championed on umpteen forums and social media platforms. But, he also suggested that his preference might be for a lower number, somewhere between 55,000 and the 60,000 threshold that many, including myself, see as the absolute minimum. If Everton are genuinely to compete in capacity terms with a peer group of clubs comprising Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and even West Ham, then notions of less than 60,000 surely have to be discounted?
His saying that made me wonder whether his enthusiasm for BMD had been tempered by more cautious, reserved, safety-first elements currently within the club?
Of that list, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham will all have 60,000 plus stadia for next season, Chelsea have plans to rebuild Stamford Bridge to accommodate that number while both Liverpool and City have plans to further expand capacity at Anfield and the Etihad respectively. Way out in front in terms of capacity are of course Manchester United, and many fans are firmly of the opinion that if Everton are to compete in the future, we simply have to be part of the 60,000 club.
Adding weight to the argument for 60,000 or more for BMD right from the outset were the statements from Dan Meis that a. the stadium when completed will not be liable for future expansion and b. if safe standing areas are incorporated immediately or in the future, they will be on a 1:1 ration i.e. no capability to increase capacity along the lines of clubs in Germany like Dortmund where safe standing has been implemented on a 1:1.7 ratio.
The build therefore for BMD has to be understood to be a one-time opportunity for the club to hopefully push for and build to the maximum possible capacity. With the ticket pricing policies that Everton have adopted and are looking to maintain for some time, to my mind at least, a capacity of 60,000 (or as many more as possible) will be key to maintaining these policies and stalling on future price rises.
The profile drawings showed that BMD will be an imposing stadium, with steep stands and a proximity to the pitch that should engender an aggressive, intimidating atmosphere, and a substantial ‘home wall’ at the south end of the stadium.
Throughout his presentation, one couldn’t help but agree with sentiments expressed previously that Dan Meis ‘gets’ Everton and is fully committed to building a new home for the club that everyone will be fully relate to. He enthused about the effect attending games at Goodison had had upon him and how designing and building a new stadium to respect the heritage of the Grand Old Lady was absolutely uppermost in his thinking.
It was this enthusiasm for Goodison and the special atmosphere and feelings it can and does create for Evertonians that got me thinking about his ‘getting’ Everton.
Now I don’t know precisely how many and which games Dan Meis and his associates have attended at Goodison, but I would bet good money that none of the games they’ve attended have had anything remotely close or even similar to the Bayern Munich semi-final atmosphere, or the Fiorentina atmosphere or the Dan Gosling extra-time cup-tie winner against the RS atmosphere… to name just three of the best atmospheres I’ve personally experienced at Goodison.
Imagine if Dan Meis had witnessed any of those games and atmospheres. Any doubts he (and indeed others) may have about our ability to pack out BMD and create the kind of atmosphere he yearns to incorporate would be instantly dispelled.
Dan Meis suggested very strongly that the final plans and designs will be available for release in the fairly short future, just a mater of weeks and his referring to a ‘magic number’ on more than one occasion during the presentation I attended left me extremely hopeful that his more measured capacity numbers will be surpassed to at least 60,000 and ideally 61,878.
The other major impression that Dan Meis left upon myself is that he’s not designing and building a soulless bowl stadium that can handle football, concerts and lots of other events. It struck me that first and absolutely foremost he’s designing and building a bespoke football ground, a new home for Everton Football Club, and in the fullness of time, if concerts and other events can be staged there, all well and good, but BMD will be primarily for Everton and it’s supporters to call ‘Home’ for the foreseeable and hopefully glorious future.
I left St.Johns Church enthused and very quietly confident that not only have Everton employed the right guy to design and build BMD, but that he perhaps ‘gets’ Everton even more than he actually admits to and our dreams of a ‘magic number’ capacity will be realised.