Marco Silva officially opened Everton’s Blue Base facility as the Club and Everton in the Community laid another giant footprint in L4.
The Blue Base is the latest of EitC's pioneering projects, with the Blues’ official charity aiming to establish a transformative legacy in the shadow of Everton's 126-year-old home ground in the shape of the fast-growing ‘Goodison Campus’.
First-team manager Silva joined Everton Chief Executive Officer, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, to unveil a plaque to signal the official launch of The Blue Base, formerly a derelict building in Salop Street, close to Goodison Park. The site has been transformed into a smart function centre to act as a pre and post-match lounge for vulnerable and disabled fans on matchdays, and will be available for the public to use for functions throughout the year.
Silva told evertontv it was important for him to play a big part in the Club’s award-winning community programme.
“From the first day I came to Everton, Denise [Barrett-Baxendale] spoke to me about the community and what our Club does to help everybody,” said Silva. “I told her I want to be part of this and it is important for me to be part of this project.
“The people try to do everything for us to feel the Club is a family. When you see what the Club is doing behind the scenes to support and build important things for everyone it is very important.”
Everton Chief Executive, Professor Barrett-Baxendale, told a packed audience of participants in EitC’s programmes for elderly people living with dementia or suffering social isolation – which will be housed in The Blue Base facility – that this was a “day of celebration”.
She promised, however, that EitC’s ambitious work is only just beginning.
“Everton Football Club is committed to Liverpool 4. We will never abandon Liverpool 4 and we will always have a presence here,” said Professor Barrett-Baxendale.
The development of Everton Free School in 2014 provided the first substantial block in the Goodison Campus.
In the intervening years, Everton has opened the People’s Hub – a community facility designed to host a number of EitC projects – and five houses on Goodison Road have been purchased and transformed into the locations for EitC’s more discreet programmes.
And Professor Barrett-Baxendale was proud to see two years of planning and graft come to fruition when Silva signalled the official opening of the EitC’s latest life-changing resource.
“Seeing how busy The Blue Base is today evidences the need for the facilities and resources we have here in The Blue Base,” Professor Barrett-Baxendale told evertontv.
"We are building our legacy in Liverpool 4 and this is another example of that. It demonstrates our commitment to Liverpool 4.
“It is crucial the manager understands the ethos and philosophy of the Club and I am delighted to have Marco here today. It is strong evidence of the commitment he has to our Football Club.
“This project is an example of how you support your extended family. We have granddads and grandmas in the room who are living with dementia and memory loss and this is how we come together and support them. That family value is important to us.”
Manager Silva joined in a game of bingo with the charity’s participants and poured over old football programmes which are integral to Pass on the Memories
, a dementia programme which will deliver at least 90 sessions per year in the next five years at The Blue Base. The new building also serves as a meeting place for disabled supporters and their families on matchdays.
EitC has launched a fundraising programme to develop a facility called The People’s Place, with the intention to create a new purpose-built facility which will become a delivery site for mental health resources and enable signposting to other services.
When that project is complete, the Club and its funding partners will have invested around £8million in community facilities into the Walton ward.
EitC Chief Executive, Richard Kenyon, told evertontv: “This is a very proud day for Everton and EitC. The Blue Base is already being used by the community and on a matchday.
“We have had great feedback, so it is the start of something special.
“To see this building, which was derelict a year ago, already being used so much is fantastic and something really valuable to the local community in L4.
"The physical regeneration the Club is contributing to in L4 is very important to us.
"It is all part of us putting physical buildings in the community so we can deliver our social programmes, which are growing and growing.
"We are impacting on more and more people in the community. This is not by any means the final part of the jigsaw. It is just the latest piece.
"We know having a campus around Goodison which can continue to provide a social benefit is very, very important."