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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Everton's grounds for hope
The artist's image of Everton's new King's Dock home
The artist's image of Everton's new King's Dock home
BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty examines how Everton aim to use a new 55,000-seater waterfront stadium as the foundation stone for the revival of a fallen football giant.

Everton revealed the two faces of their current fortunes as impresario owner Bill Kenwright took the wraps off his latest lavish production.

Kenwright was at Liverpool's Maritime Museum to hear that Everton had won "preferred bidder" status to build a new 55,000 seater stadium on the Mersey waterfront at King's Dock.

The ceremony was laced with a touch of irony - given Everton's current footballing and financial position - by being conducted directly above the Museum's Titanic exhibition.

And the King's Dock project, estimated to cost 250m, came on the day Everton were losing out to Manchester United on Wigan goalkeeper Roy Carroll because they did not have the cash to push through a deal that would have cost 100 times less.

Goodbye to Goodison
Goodbye to Goodison
Kenwright, however, is shot through with neat optimism, a fact reflected in his determination to grasp ownership of Everton at a time when it was no more enticing than the most poisoned chalice.

He also has total conviction that Everton's foundations for the future can only be built on the banks of what he calls - with a touch of dramatic licence he might think twice about using even in his West End theatrical role - "the royal blue Mersey".

Everton will own 49% of the stadium, with other agencies such as the Liverpool City Council involved - and Kenwright and his cohorts now have six months to prove they can deliver.

Kenwright has no doubts: "If my final legacy to my home town is that I am part of a fantastic monument to entertainment that will bring a lot of pleasure to people on the banks of the Mersey, then I will be a happy man."

He insists no money for team building will be set aside for the stadium project - although it does appear manager Walter Smith has little or no money anyway.

Kenwright insists the two projects are separate financially, but will go hand in hand with his stated aim of reviving Everton's fortunes on the field.

He said: "We are not spending money on the stadium that might otherwise be available for new signings. It is a different stream of money.

"This wonderful site is, in its own way, similar to an entrance to the Champions League."

Kenwright 's dream alive
Kenwright 's dream alive
This point stretches at the boundaries of reality, but there is no doubting Kenwright's certainty that this is a measure of how important the King's Dock development is to Everton's future.

It will be part of a massive complex, and will have a retractable roof and pitch.

It is due to host its first match in 2005 and will create an estimated 8,000 jobs - and there is an in-built safety net for the project should Everton be relegated while the bulldozers are at work.

The new stadium will be play host to rock and classical concerts, and will also double up as an indoor arena.

Goodison Park, once described as a "grand old lady" of a stadium but now more of an over-dressed old hag, will be razed to the ground.

Everton's hierarchy have visited Schalke 04 in Germany, a club rejuvenated by a new ground.


This wonderful site is, in its own way, similar to an entrance to the Champions League
  Everton owner Bill Kenwright
And they will hope to follow in the footsteps of Sunderland and Middlesbrough in this country, who have been rejuvenated - in different ways maybe - by new grounds.

Everton did consider revamping Goodison Park, but history is against such a lavish and complex project.

Both Wolves and Chelsea - pre-Ken Bates and his grand design it should be said - built new stands at Molineux and Stamford Bridge that remained for some time as grim monuments to over-stretched ambition.

The trick for Everton, and the dream for Kenwright, is to make the stadium rise alongside the river while the team rise from the Premier League's basement.

And if he succeeds, it will be a happy ending to a story that will stand alongside anything this fiercely partisan Everton fan has ever put on in the West End.

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