Tom Hughes' Letter
This is a copy of the letter that qualified structural design Engineer Tom Hughes sent to Everton CEO Keith Wyness on the 18th December 2004. To date Mr. Wyness still has not responded.
I have read with great interest the recent speculation regarding stadium sharing and/or the redevelopment of Goodison Park. Personally I find the former as abhorrent and ill-conceived as is possible to imagine, invariably touted by those who know the price of everything, yet the value of nothing. Therefore, I refer only to the latter option and in doing so I urge the club to adopt a totally holistic approach to this as a viable option. I should first explain my background. I am a shareholder, season ticket holder and Structural Design Engineer with a keen interest in stadia design. I have quite a history of correspondence on this issue. I first wrote to the club over 10 years ago regarding the then proposed new park stand. Following this, in 1996 I also approached the club concerning the complete redevelopment of Goodison and included initial sketched ideas. This even predates the original proposals for relocation to Kirkby and can be viewed on the following website, please see: http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~rtlloyd/stadium.html
Then, in 1998 I realised an ambition by being allowed to choose the redesign of Goodison Park for a final year project having returned to University to study Design Engineering as a mature student. This was a far more extensive study supported by architectural and structural design departments at the university. As a result, I can readily demonstrate how the current site can be fully utilised to produce a minimum of 50,000 seats, and perhaps as many as 60,000 depending on how we are allowed to infringe the immediate environs. During the whole process I spoke with the local planning department (Fergal McEvoy) regarding this issue and felt even then that there was some flexibility. I also surveyed surrounding residents regarding their views, particularly those most affected by my proposals. Therefore, not withstanding the political wrangling of the ground-share fraternity, I feel that there are real opportunities at the current site. Given the emotional and historical context of that imponderable i.e. the preservation of our identity on the site of the world’s first purpose built football stadium is surely a priceless asset.
Therefore, I have studied stadia design and more specifically the Goodison Park site plans extensively. This included over 12 months dedicated research for a potential concept design, producing several schemes via a computer sight-line mathematical model before arriving at final design and a 1:200th scale model which was exhibited and featured in various publications and the local press. Members of “Everton in the community” also visited the exhibition to view the model, after Mr Dunford was unable to attend. This combined with the cumulative effect of over 30 years experience attending Goodison has given me a strong awareness of the limitations of the site but also an informed perspective of what I feel a new Goodison Park should be in both aesthetic and functional terms.
There are certain issues that need highlighting when considering the redevelopment of the present stadium. Several commentators on the subject have suggested that we should first erect a second tier on the current park end stand. This would appear to be the simplest solution, and indeed it would readily yield 3-5000 extra seats dependent on the depth and width of this extension. However, upon close inspection of the overall site and the surrounding road geometry, I feel there exists a greater opportunity to fully exploit the space and the structures available, that would not be possible if we adopt this quick-fix solution. Firstly to minimise cost, what can be salvaged from the existing ground? The Gwladys Street and Bullens road stands require complete replacement. The Goodison Road side is at first glance an eyesore with all its 1970’s misgivings, however it has at least one redeeming feature, and that is its scale. I cannot overstate the importance of this attribute. Tall multi-tiered stands are synonymous with Everton Football club, and should form one parameter of any design brief, for several reasons, not least necessity borne from the confined space. Its main failings are its misshapen configuration due the line of Goodison Road itself, and excessive obstructed views. (These Sketches are nearly 10 years old and are from aforementioned website.)
This stand can be greatly improved in both appearance and function with these faults eradicated at a relatively low cost, first by removal of the roof supporting columns, and secondly the elimination of the majority of seating rows behind the second row of columns, and most particularly at the church end of the main stand.
This would then enable proper executive boxes to be suspended beneath the top balcony and the existing poorly situated lean-to boxes removed, thus restoring the full enclosure. The extra 4 rows of seats recently installed at the front of the main stand may now be continued along its entire length. This and a potential lowering of pitch by just 1metre will yield further capacity offsetting losses at the rear of the main stand and improving sight-lines for upper tiers on this side. This in effect creates a brand new stand at minimal cost with substantially improved appearance and executive provision. If you then view the site plans, you will see that the pitch is not really central to the length of this stand.
As you can see the main stand starts roughly 6m into the pitch, ending approximately 20m beyond the Park stand Goal line. Therefore, by moving the pitch 10-13metres towards the park end, this will centralise the playing area with respect to this stand, and more importantly open up valuable extra footprint for the new Street end stand. This will necessitate the removal of the current park stand, thus illustrating my reason for not supporting the idea of simply putting a new tier on this stand which would forever limit the capacity at the new street end, and therefore the ground as a whole (unless we have planning permission to remove the houses behind that stand). Centralising the main stand will improve the general performance of this side, and further reduce the area loss due to St Luke’s. In doing this we will then be freeing up sufficient space to allow a new and properly configured Double Decker stand to be built in stages around the remaining 3 sides, completely enclosing the pitch in a horseshoe, meeting the main stand at its corners. To achieve the same depth on the Bullens road side, this road would need to be bridged, however the land-take and number of houses effected would be minimal, as only 2 streets abut this road. The actual road could remain in place with the stand supported above. If the height of all these new structures approximately matched that of the existing top balcony, a continuous roof could be erected covering all stands. The redundant spaces either ends of the main stand will allow roof truss support towers in these 2 corners, minimising the spans and therefore cost of goalpost roof trusses if that is the chosen method of roof support.
I started this letter urging you to adopt a holistic approach, thinking long term and the creation of a unified design to fully exploit the site. The aforementioned quick-fix will appeal to many, and my suggestion of removal of the newest stand may seem controversial. However, I would strongly suggest that a simple referral to the quick fix antics of our neighbours spending fortunes creating 45,000 seats on a footprint that should comfortably yield 55,000, with as bad a set of ill-fitting adlib structures as you could wish to see as providing ample and sobering evidence of the pitfalls of such short-sighted policy. Of course we all know where that now leaves them. I also believe that the steps described optimise use of both the space and the structures available, representing the best solution for this site providing several complimentary solutions simultaneously.
I am currently trying to relocate the CAD files containing, the stand profiles produced, and will endeavour to complete a 3-D CAD model of one scheme that illustrates the above. If possible I will also refurbish the model of the design that was completed and exhibited in 1999, although this is a more blank-canvass unrestrained effort. I hope that these will be of some interest to the club.