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New twist in Everton stadium saga

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For those who don't know, Everton have long been looking to either re-build their stadium Goodison Park or move to a new home, with several aborted attempts along the way.

Goodison is a fantastic stadium, steeped in footballing history, and despite it's age it still retains an unique atmosphere up there with the best in the Premier League.

Unfortunately though it's age it starting to show. Cramped concourses, wooden seats and obstructed views mean comfort is not exactly high on the list at Goodison Park. Plus the lack of executive boxes means key income streams are denied.

The search for a new ground began in 1996 with then chairman Peter Johnson proposing a move outside the City boundaries to a Golf course in a place called Kirkby. The move was actually passed by fans in a vote but financial troubles and the eventual ousting of Johnson put that on the back burner.

It also needs to be noted that Everton have tried twice to build on Stanley Park - the park that currently divides Goodison with Anfield - but had planning permission rejected. Liverpool tried once and had plans accepted, need I say more!

The best opportunity came in 2000 when a site on the banks of the River Mersey (hence the blog's title!) became available. The plans looked fantastic and Evertonians were fully behind the move, but chairman Bill Kenwright just couln't come up with the money to fund their share of the project and Everton eventually had to pull out. The Echo Arena, a conference and concert centre, now stands on the site as a grim reminder to Toffees of what might have been.

Then, most controversially, in 2007 another proposed move to Kirkby was again raised in a shared partnership with supermarket giant Tesco . The club cranked up the pr machine as they put the decision to the supporters, talking about how much the new stadium would earn the club and how Goodison was falling down. The fans again voted for the move but as time went on it became apparent some of the club's pledges were not quite as true as they made out. The 'Keep Everton In our City' group gathered pace and the move  was eventually scuppered after a public inquiry into the impact the project would have on neighbouring town centres.

Now, faced with being stuck at Goodison for the foreseeable future (not necessarily a bad thing) the club are at least looking at the option of redeveloping on the existing site, though this is potentially difficult as terraced housing surrounds three sides of the ground, meaning any expansion would be expensive and fraught with red tape.

But credit to Kenwright, chief Exec Robert Elstone and the board, they have come up with a decent short term option.They have announced plans for a 9million project and the spare plot of land adjacent to the Park End stand (the only spare bit of space Goodison has), The four-storey, 100,000 square foot project will include a shop, museum, cafe, offices and hospitality suite. Many of the offices will move from their current spot in the main stand. This will then allow more corporate facilities to be built in the stadium.

The project is funded through the club's partnership with Kit distributor Kitbag and sponsors Sodexo, meaning it is entirely self funded with no cost to the club or the local government.

The board have insisted it doesn't mean they club is definitely staying at Goodison, though they confess this project is for the medium term.

In the grand scheme of things I think this is a very good move. They clearly can't afford to move to a new ground and even if they could it would take several years to complete. This project will at least be able to freshen up the ground and bring more funds in, which should hopefully give David Moyes more cash to spend (which after splashing out just 2million this summer, he clearly needs).

The building is subject to planning permission of course which is far from certain given the trouble Everton have had over the past 20 years.

Either way though it looks like the 'Old Lady' Goodison Park is ready to fight another day.