Liverpool took the next step in their redevelopment of Anfield this week by submitting a planning application to Liverpool City Council asking for consent to begin the expansion of the Main Stand at the stadium. The city's planning committee is expected to review the proposal later this year, with the club hoping that approval will be granted with enough time to allow the construction to be completed by August 2016.
The redevelopment has dragged on for far too long for most fans' tastes, but the new owners' involvement has sped up the process significantly and, more importantly, in an actual things-are-happening tangible way. FSG have previous experience with stadium construction at the beloved home of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, and Liverpool chairman Tom Werner thinks the redevelopment might be the greatest imprint the owners leave the club and the city.
"I have to agree with the idea this is a monumental moment for us as a club," Werner said in a lengthy interview with the Telegraph. "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. 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."
Werner is aware of the strong emotional connection fans have with the stadium, and is understanding of some of the other sensitivities in working with such a connected fanbase given his experiences in Boston. Liverpool fans have long opposed any plans to help pay for the redevelopment by selling naming rights to the stadium, and they'll be delighted to know their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.
"The idea of sponsorship – pursuing the Mercedes Benz stadium or similar – was not an option our supporters wanted," Werner confirmed. "There could certainly be some form of branding within areas of the arena. It is still early and these will be for further discussion."
Of course, it's not that early if the first stage of the redevelopment is slated to finish a mere two years from now, but if anyone can get a large commercial deal done in short order, it's Ian Ayre. But first things first: approval from the city council.