The debate is whether soccer clubs, especially in England, would be better off borrowing some of the concepts of stadium designs from baseball organizations in the United States? For example, instead of English clubs such as Everton, Portsmouth and Liverpool building brand-new stadiums (as they’re planning on doing) that look nothing like their former grounds, why not build retro stadiums that harken back to the past such as baseball parks like Baltimore Orioles’s Camden Yards and Texas Rangers’s Rangers Ballpark have done?
What those baseball parks have done, as well as many other baseball organizations have copied, is build parks that adopt designs that remind baseball fans of the past. Just being in these parks is a pleasant experience combining the best of modern conveniences and easy-access in and out of parks with the look and feel of glorious designs from previous decades.
In the case of Everton, and to a lesser extent Portsmouth and Liverpool, the clubs have designed plans for modern stadiums that look predictable, boring and unimaginative. Everton’s proposed stadium in Kirkby looks like any other modern plastic ground in the Premier League such as Middlesbrough’s Riverside, Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, Reading’s Madjeski Stadium and so on and so forth.
Clubs such as Everton, Portsmouth and Liverpool would be better suited selecting different architects who could design modern grounds that allow for larger capacities but feature designs that look similar to Goodison Park, Anfield and Fratton Park. For Portsmouth, why not incorporate the mock Tudor style design of their one entranceway into the design of the new ground? For Everton’s new stadium, why not borrow some of the design techniques from Goodison Park architect Archibald Leitch such as the two-tier design of the Gwladys Street End or his famous gables?
The architects for the new Anfield stadium, at the behest of owners Gillett and Hicks, will incorporate a design that makes the new Kop a large part of the stadium design. But what are the plans for the Shankly Gates and the Hillsborough memorial, and is there a way for Liverpool to design the outside of the ground in such a way that is a fitting tribute to Shankly, Paisley and the people who died at Hillsborough?
What older stadiums in England have right now is identity. “The Grand Old Lady,” as Goodison Park is nicknamed, looks like no other ground in the Premier League and, although antiquated, is one of the finest stadiums in the country. Craven Cottage, despite tiny, is one of the most unique stadiums in the world with its cottage nestled into the corner of the ground and the Johnny Haynes stand from the early part of the 20th century still being the focal point of the ground.
The tragedy is that in a few years time, the only retro stadium that will be in existence in the Premier League is Fulham’s Craven Cottage. All of the other clubs will feature copycat plastic stadiums (with Blackburn and West Ham being the only two clubs that feature one part of their grounds with a very old and antiquated stand).