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Feature

Extending the event experience – fanzone focus

Images: Everton FC, Marvel Stadium Photos & Tennessee Titans

One of, if not the biggest fanzone space in English football, is set to revolutionise the matchday experience for fans of Premier League club Everton, when its new stadium stages its first games ahead of the 2025-26 season.

Everton Stadium is currently being developed in earnest, with its location on the banks of the River Mersey in Liverpool offering the club opportunities completely unavailable at the cramped confines of its historic current home.

Goodison Park has been Everton’s home since 1892, with its long-term future set to see it redeveloped to provide a range of community assets in the Liverpool 4 area. While Everton is currently able to provide fanzone-style experiences at Goodison, Alix Waldron, the club’s principal lead for stadium development project management, explained that supporters will be met with a sea change in such offerings at the new facility.

An overhead shot of the Fan Plaza site

“The space available will be the big difference,” Waldron told TheStadiumBusiness.com. “The club has utilised the limited room at Goodison to the best of our ability. However, the tight confines of Goodison Park mean that a large section of the car park has needed to be sectioned off for the several food outlets, which operate from mobile catering units. 

“An adjacent stage, with some nearby cover provided from inclement weather, provides the focal point for a live show that runs in the build-up to kick-off, and is a real attraction that works well. The carefully choreographed show, filmed and screened live on a large screen nearby and broadcast live on the club’s YouTube channel, includes live music and special guests. 

“Overall, the existing site works well in attracting a healthy number of fans, but does suffer, somewhat, from being a little cramped. In contrast, the Fan Plaza at Everton Stadium will provide a breathtaking, spacious entrance point to the stadium site. 

“The unique location of the new stadium means that, unlike Goodison, everyone arriving at the stadium will pass through the expansive fan plaza, which covers 30,000 square metres on the eastern edge of the stadium footprint.” 

Waldron added: “Granite stone paving makes this fully accessible, and with trees and concrete benches lining the plaza, there is no shortage of space for the thousands of supporters to enjoy the programme of entertainment and events that will be laid on.”

Fan Plaza progress

The development of the Fan Plaza is a 52-week project, with work having commenced on the second phase back in March. So far, work on the plaza has been undertaken in two sections, with the busy vehicle access road for the stadium slicing through the middle.

Earlier this month, following the relocation of all deliveries to the north end of the stadium, craftsmen from Vetter, a specialist stone contactor and part of the Laing O’Rourke group, the main contractor for Everton Stadium, began focusing their efforts on combining the two paved sections of the plaza.

“One of the unique facets of the Fan Plaza is its location, sat atop a filled-in former dock in north Liverpool that was once at the forefront of global maritime trade,” Waldron said.

“Many of the heritage assets from the dock’s heyday have been carefully removed and skilfully reintegrated into the finished plaza, such as the historic railway lines that used to transport goods from the dockside to locations across the UK. Mooring posts, capstans and cobbles have also been reintroduced to the open space. 

“Two of the main benefits that the new fan plaza brings are the 100% footfall, which ensures everyone who visits the stadium must pass through, and the sheer scale. The plaza, which leads directly to the new Everton Store, can hold up to 25,000 people, the maximum for a concert held there, based on a small stage set-up.”

She continued: “This makes it equivalent in size to Pier Head in Liverpool, which is often used to stage concerts and major events, while on matchday capacity will be somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000. The fan plaza therefore provides event organisers with another viable location, in tandem with the stadium itself, to host a variety of mainstream events, both on matchdays and as a ‘365 destination’. 

“A dedicated stage hosting entertainment on matchdays, with novel food and beverage concessions, aims to provide enough of an attraction to pull fans onto the stadium footprint three hours before a game. Pivoting away from matchdays, other notable events could include festivals, concerts, Christmas markets and sporting events.”

A game-changer on non-matchdays

Waldron states that Everton took inspiration, at the design stage of the project, from several European clubs, where “this type of external space is more prevalent”.

Everton officially commenced work on the 52,888-capacity stadium in July 2021, with a groundbreaking ceremony taking place the following month. With a price tag now exceeding £800m (€932.7m/$1.01bn), Everton in December declared that it will play its first competitive fixtures at its new home at the start of the 2025-26 season, albeit with the venue still scheduled to be completed in the final weeks of 2024.

This is designed to allow the staging of test events in order to obtain a safety certificate, while also giving Evertonians a chance to see and sample the new facilities. As for Everton Stadium’s place in terms of modern-day best practice for fan zone offerings, Waldron said: “The drive to ensure supporters are on the stadium footprint, from as early as possible to as late as practical, means that fan zones can play an integral part.

“At Everton Stadium, situated a mile and a half north of the city centre, many of the stadium’s bars will remain open after the game, and the possibility of post-match entertainment in the adjoining plaza, once supporters have been allowed to exit, is a further viable option. 

“It’s hard to see fan zones in general developing beyond the few hours before and after games. However, as previously mentioned, the vast open space at Everton Stadium – definitely one of, if not the biggest fanzone spaces in English football – does open up different avenues and becomes a game-changer on non-matchdays for sporting events, concerts and more.”

Marvel Stadium’s revamp

While Everton has worked with a blank slate to draw upon, Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium recently completed a project that aimed to further enhance a venue that was already highly regarded.

The Victoria Government and Australian Football League (AFL) in March hailed the completion of a A$225m (£118.5m/€138.2m/$150.2m) upgrade package which they claimed makes Marvel Stadium a “destination venue”.

The Labor Government’s A$225m investment has transformed the stadium, which now features two new Stadium Square and City Edge plazas which turn the precinct into a seven-day-a-week community meeting place and build a better link between the entire Docklands precinct and Melbourne’s city centre.

Stadium Square provides a year-round all-weather public space that can be used for community events and markets and is a gathering place for fans with permanent bars and restaurants – backing more local jobs and businesses.

City Edge features a new concourse space on the eastern side of the ground with new shops, bars and restaurants, and Melbourne’s CBD as the backdrop.

Work began on the project back in February 2022, marking the first time the 53,000-seat stadium underwent major renovations since it opened in March 2000. The redevelopment formed part of a wider agreement between the Victoria Government and the AFL, which owns and operates the venue, that ensures the AFL Grand Final will take place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground until 2059.

An AFL spokesperson told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “The A$225m redevelopment solidifies Marvel Stadium as a leader for business events in Melbourne.

“The addition of six new premium event spaces, an elevated food and beverage offering, and state-of-the-art digital assets places Marvel Stadium in a position of competition with that of five-star hotels and purpose-built conference centres. A first of its kind to be offered by a stadium within Australia. 

“The stadium redevelopment has already seen an uplift in interest for events considering Melbourne as their location which will no doubt have significant effect in growing the local economy over the course of the coming years.”

Growing event diversity

The AFL said it worked closely with its partner John Holland, which led the design, “looking all over the world” at different stadium offerings, fan experience and infrastructure to help bring forward the vision for Marvel Stadium.

Commenting on the upgraded visitor and fan experience at Marvel Stadium, the League added: “We aim to attract a diverse range of visitors to the docklands area, maximising the precinct’s facilities 365 days a year and generating economic benefits for the surrounding areas.

“Overall, the goal is to establish the Marvel Stadium precinct as the premier entertainment destination in the region, drawing visitors from near and far while enhancing the overall appeal and vitality of the Docklands area.

“The state-of-the-art stadium will improve the overall fan experience with revitalised eastern and southern entry points, a new Town Square – an all-weather open area available seven days a week, new function rooms with views of the area and Melbourne CBD, major renovations to food and beverage areas, accessibility upgrades, new change rooms for athletes and improved lighting, technology and video scoreboards.”

Titans’ future thinking

Looking to the future, the Tennessee Titans are one of two NFL teams, alongside the Buffalo Bills, currently fully engaged in the development of a new stadium.

The Titans in February officially fired the starting gun on development of the New Nissan Stadium, pledging that the venue will be unlike any other stadium in the world. The $2.1bn (£1.66bn/€1.93bn) project is being developed on the East Bank in Nashville, across from downtown and on the east side of the current Nissan Stadium campus. Scheduled to open in 2027, the three-year construction project will ultimately deliver a 60,000-capacity stadium designed to serve as a centrepiece of the East Bank.

The 1.8 million square-foot New Nissan Stadium will feature exterior terraces and porches designed to provide panoramic views of the city and serve as a social space during event and non-event days. The facility will also feature a 12,000 square foot community space available for use year-round.

The Titans concede they are “still a bit early” in the planning of fan areas around the stadium, as the City of Nashville is in the process of developing the land around the stadium. However, a team spokesperson told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “On the south side of the stadium, there will be a plaza that the Titans will have the ability to program both on game days and non-game days.

“This will be available for tailgating before the game, but also movie nights and events for the community. There will be a platform for performers and also a large screen on the side of the stadium that faces the plaza that could be used for events like movie screenings, fitness events and more.

“Creating areas around the stadium where new fan traditions and memories can be formed is a huge priority for us.”