Colin Chong, Chief Stadium Development Officer, celebrates one year of work at Everton Stadium on Bramley-Moore Dock…
It is now one-year since we ‘broke ground’ at Bramley-Moore Dock.
We have seen the transformation of a semi-derelict North Liverpool dock, to what is currently the structure of our magnificent new waterfront stadium.
The change in one-year has been breath-taking. I have been in the construction industry throughout my career and I have to say this build is the one that has given me the most satisfaction.
Nelson Dock, adjacent to our site, serves as a visual reminder of what our site looked like a year ago. It resembles a ‘before and after’ image and offers clear evidence of the hard work that has been undertaken to date by the Club and our construction partner, Laing O’Rourke.
While there have been many milestone moments, my favourites from the past year were the infill of the dock and installation of tower cranes on-site.
The infill process was nothing short of an engineering triumph, which attracted the attention of engineers and construction industry insiders right across the world. We had interest from the Middle East and Northern Europe (both parts of the world where land reclamation is a key part of their construction industry) in the smooth progress we were making and what learnings could be taken. This period also led to some incredible imagery of the changing landscape of our site - evolving from a water-filled dock into a compacted sand-filled basin, following a large amount of preparatory work that was undertaken in advance of starting on site.
More recently the milestone of the tower cranes being erected marked the start of the next phase of our build schedule. The four cranes really are key as they offer us much more flexibility in planning the workload for the coming years. Viewers of our update videos will have seen the role they have played in putting the steel structures in place that are effectively the skeleton of our new stadium.
No major development is without any challenging moments, and we have faced some of these.
However, our close relationship and team-work with Laing O’Rourke has enabled us to overcome them. Many of these challenges are the result of factors beyond our control.
At the outset we were concerned about Brexit and what that might mean from a supply chain perspective – for example buying glass from Italy or copper from Europe. Then just as we leave the EU and start to get a feel for where that new political and supplier landscape was at, a global pandemic, in the shape of COVID-19, hit.
Some of our pre-COVID meetings involved more than 20 people sat around a table discussing minute details on huge drawings and digital models on big screens. This was being done remotely, on nine-inch screens, which made life much more difficult.
While this wasn’t ideal, we overcame those issues, only to then experience global supply and demand issues with key materials, These were initially caused by the pandemic, but added to by the tragic events in Ukraine.
A lot of raw material steel comes through Ukraine and those supply chains were interrupted and the marketplace became volatile.
Securing cost certainty was always a key strategy for the Board and the reasons for this have been amplified during the last year. We knew the riverside location was very sensitive in terms of weather impacts and developed the design that de-risked the project schedule.
It was important our construction partner was involved in that process, and it has been beneficial that we began working with Laing O’Rourke long before work began on site. This has enabled us to refine the design for buildability, procure materials early and stick to the ambitious schedule we have developed. Despite these challenges I am pleased to report that one-year since we put the first spade in the ground we are on programme, on time and on budget. In the current geo-political and economic landscape, that is some achievement.
Colin Chong, Chief Stadium Development Officer
All the way through this, the support of Mr Moshiri, the Chairman, Denise as CEO and the Board of Directors has been vital.
Mr Moshiri is fully committed to getting it done and has never wavered in his full support.
There have been enough obstacles and challenges that would make step back and want to review the political, economic and health challenges impacting the process.. But at no point has the project been paused – we’ve managed the risks and maintained progress.
The entire ownership and leadership group at Everton deserve an enormous amount of credit for continuing to push this stadium project forwards in the face of difficult times. They have remained firm in their belief that the new Everton Stadium is the most significant project the Club has undertaken in the last 130 years.
Workers’ Welfare on-site
Laing O’Rourke is a tier one contractor. They have a track-record for delivery and in-depth engineering knowledge, as well a commitment to the welfare of their construction workforce who, unlike most other contractors, they employ directly.
The welfare facilities we have on-site for those working to deliver our new stadium has been thought about and carefully planned 18-months in advance. Equally important, to both Laing O’Rourke and Everton, is that we provide working conditions that are the best in the industry.. As an example of this, alongside the rest and recuperation facilities at Bramley-Moore Dock, we have a pioneering immersive induction space that puts the health, safety, welfare and wellbeing of staff at the very heart of the project delivery.
We are nearly one third of the way through the build, but we are not patting ourselves on the back or resting on our laurels. We still have a couple of winters to get through and in the meantime we need to get a lot of the high-level lifting activities done whilst the weather allows.
As you’d expect, we, we can’t operate at high levels with strong winds. But we have analysed a lot of historical weather data to make predictions and plans, and Laing O’Rourke have a lot of data from their previous projects as to when weather conditions require them to suspend lifting activity to ensure operations are completed safely. This insight allows us to build accurate timelines for the project.
The first terracing units have gone on to the steelwork and that alone will start to create a visual change as the gaps between steel are filled with concrete and the stadium’s bowl takes shape.
Supporters will probably be able to see the whole upper tier of concrete terracing installed in the next six months, apart from the East Stand which is used for site access and will be the last to complete. The lower tier terracing units will follow, once the roof steel is in place.
The roof will no doubt be the most visual milestone moment. I am conscious that we are hostages to fortune with the wind. These are huge, expensive pieces of steel and aluminium cladding, manufactured in segments and they need installing in a certain sequence, starting with the north and south stands.
I imagine we will start to see sections of the roof in place in the Spring of next year.
The East and West stands are predominantly concrete builds, and they give stability to the whole scheme, so they will take longer to complete than the North and South. Then you have all the mechanical, electrical and plumbing services in those stands, so eventually, around a year from now, we will reach a point where, from the outside, few changes will be visible, as all the work will be going on inside.
Finally, the latticed brickwork that will form the external façade will start to be erected, possibly later this year and in various locations.
By the time the external façade is in place, people will really begin to be able to make out the final form that our jaw-dropping new stadium will take.
This is a quality build. The groundworks and dock infill are industry-leading, steel is marine grade quality, the concrete is designed to resist marine moisture and everything about this stadium is built to last. An awful lot of the cost goes into that, and people won’t see it, but this is a robust engineering product that is going to be the future for generations of Everton fans.
We have the job, not only getting it right for them, but also ensuring our city has a Fourth Grace to be proud of.