Islands, gardens and power stations: 8 stadiums that never were

They are monuments to what might have been – the stadiums that failed to get beyond an architect’s vision or a glossy promotional video. Ryan Herman rounds up some of the futuristic, controversial and outlandish venues which never saw a kick-off...

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1. The King’s Waterfront Stadium

For all the old-fashioned grandeur of Goodison, Evertonians had every right to be excited when the club unveiled plans to move to King's Dock back in 2000. At around 55,000 seats, it would have given them a stadium with a significantly larger capacity than either Goodison or Anfield, in a fantastic location near to the city centre.

The retractable roof and movable pitch would allow the stadium to stage other live events, including concerts, to keep the revenue streams nicely diverse. And the development would also feature 650 new apartments – cashing in nicely on the property boom.

Unusually for such plans, King’s Dock had the backing of local government and private investors. All the club needed to do was raise £30m. Chairman Bill Kenwright famously said that “the money is ring-fenced” – words that would come back to haunt him when Everton failed to find the necessary funding: by 2003 the King’s Dock project was shelved.

Live events are now staged at the same location in the Echo Arena and King’s Dock is, to use estate-agent parlance, “One of the most sought-after locations in the city”.

2. The Garden Stadium

This Titchmarsh-titillating 2009 proposal was intended to be the last word in sustainable stadia and the new home for Chinese Super League team Dalian Shide. The concept was a bowl-shaped stadium with garden walls at either side, to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases.

With plants on the outside and LED displays on the inside, those garden walls wouldn’t just be for show – they were to contain vital structures like roof supports, toilets, concessions stands and VIP suites.

The main concourse would be open to the field of play – the idea being that you wouldn’t miss the action even if you weren’t in your seat, although that might have raised questions about the effect on the atmosphere (the crowd rather than the planet).

However, a far bigger problem arose in 2012 when Dalian Shide was bought out to by Aerbin Group – a privately owned construction company. The club was dissolved and the new team now plays in a 60,000-capacity multi-purpose venue under the name of Dalian Aerbin.

3. The Dockland Stadium

A hark back to a very different time, 2007, when money appeared to be no object – especially at Portsmouth. This stunning 36,000-capacity venue was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron – the people who brought you Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena and the Bird's Nest in Beijing, and intend to revamp Stamford Bridge.

It prompted Pompey chief executive Peter Storrie to proclaim that the development was "proof of where we want Pompey to be – playing at the highest level and in a stadium that is reflective of a top Premiership side". 

However, the council listed 40 concerns with the idea, while building a stadium close to a naval shipyard raised security concerns. The plan was rejected after the Royal Navy stated its intention to locate to super aircraft carriers nearby. Storrie’s response? "The club is delighted that the Royal Navy here in Portsmouth is to be the home for the new carriers and destroyers."

Even if planning permission had been secured, the finances were highly suspect. The projected cost of the Dockland Stadium – announced the year before a global financial crisis partly caused by overlending on a speculative construction industry – was £600m, intended to be mainly funded by 1,500 luxury apartments on the site and development at the old Fratton Park. Given Pompey’s subsequent financial meltdown, perhaps it’s a good thing the project failed.

4. Nou Mestalla

Most of the grand plans in this feature fell through before spade struck soil. Not the Nou Mestalla. It was meant to be another symbol of a city whose global status was on the rise: Valencia had become home to an F1 Grand Prix and the futuristic regeneration landmarks of the City of Arts and Science were lauded as among the great feats of modern architecture.

Meanwhile, Valencia were rapidly becoming a major force in Spanish and European football: between 1999 and 2004, they won two La Liga titles, a UEFA Cup, a Copa del Rey and a UEFA Super Cup, also reaching successive Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001.

So in 2007 they set about building a new 75,000-capacity stadium with a futuristic exterior, made of glass and titanium with 22,500 aluminium segments. This outer façade would also act as a ventilation system.

However, Valencia’s results turned for the worse – on the field, but more notably on the balance sheet. In 2009, with the global financial crisis badly affecting lenders’ confidence, the club was haemorrhaging money and work on the new stadium ground to a halt – its stands a mere concrete skeleton.

With the debt said to be around half a billion Euros, Singaporean businessman Peter Lim’s takeover in summer 2014 has given the club hope – but work has not restarted on the Nou Mestalla. The current building site is another symbol of a city whose spending got out of control. It no longer stages an F1 race, while in 2013 the City of Arts and Science began to literally fall apart.