LONDON (Reuters) - Everton's move to a new stadium edged a little closer when the Premier League club formally signed an agreement to lease land at the proposed Bramley Moore Dock site on Thursday.
The 200-year lease, for a 'peppercorn' rent, is still conditional upon the club gaining consent and securing a funding package but it means the club now effectively owns the land on which the stadium is to be built.
"Gaining control of the site was essential for us to be able to move forward with the next stages of the project – finalising the funding agreement with the council and preparing for the submission of a planning application - both of which we hope to do in the new year," Everton Chief Executive Robert Elstone said in a statement.
The new stadium is expected to be the catalyst for a proposed 5.5 billion pound ($7.3 billion) regeneration of north Liverpool, including leisure and residential facilities, two new river terminals and a cruise liner terminal on the Mersey.
"We know that a world-class stadium, on the banks of the River Mersey, will act as a trigger for even more investment and jobs which will be of huge benefit to the whole city region," Ian Pollitt, assistant Project Director at Liverpool Waters, said. "We're excited to move to the next phase of the project."
Everton have played at their distinctive Goodison Park stadium, complete with St Luke's church wedged into one corner, since 1892 but with a capacity of only 40,000 the club struggles to compete with the match-day income of rivals.
Liverpool's upgraded Anfield ground has a capacity of 54,000.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Keith Weir)