Hotel and conference facility back on the table says new Northampton Town chairman at fans’ forum

Kelvin Thomas meets supporters at last night's supporters' forum.
Kelvin Thomas meets supporters at last night's supporters' forum.

The new chairman of Northampton Town revealed a raft of plans for the Cobblers during his first fans’ forum, from possible new training facilities to reviving the hotel plan - and even talk of a slide from the car park.

Kelvin Thomas was greeted with a round of applause as the new chief a Sixfields entered the 1897 suite to take questions from a crowd of around 200 Cobblers fans yesterday evening.

Starting with a half-an-hour presentation with updates on the unfinished stadium development the new boss revealed he and his financial backers are considering all options including knocking down the current unfinished East Stand and starting again.

He said: “We don’t think it’s the ideal design - my feeling is that a lot of you probably don’t even know what the design is - there are so many plans out there.

“One thing I will say is (when it is finished) there are not going to be any restrictive view seats.

“Knocking down and starting again has been considered.

Around 200 fans greeted Kelvin Thomas with applause for his first Cobblers fans' forum yesterday.

Around 200 fans greeted Kelvin Thomas with applause for his first Cobblers fans' forum yesterday.

“We are still in discussions and we are going to see (stadium builders) Buckingham Group tomorrow (Friday).

“Our discussions are probably six weeks away, but even then I would not want to put a time on it.”

In the interim Mr Thomas said the club was now looking into ways of putting temporary seats in the East Stand “without affecting comfort,” but he said that would be unlikely to happen before the end of the season for partly “commercial reasons.”

But he added that he will be looking to revive plans for a conference centre and a hotel on an 11-acre parcel of land at Sixfields.

He said: “We feel that’s a natural progression and will bring more revenue streams into the club.”

As part of a good natured forum, which saw the new chairman share jokes with fans, answer questions on the possibility of standing-only grounds, his relationship with basketball star Shaquille O’Neil and even whether the “big drum” could be brought back for home games, the former Oxford chief went on to say he is actively looking for a permanent training ground for the Cobblers squad.

He said: “Every day Chris Wilder will moan about the training ground and understandably.”

The club currently uses facilities at Moulton College, which he said does not have adequate drainage and can become waterlogged on rainy days.

He said he has looked at “six or seven” different locations in Northamptonshire and is currently in discussions with the borough and county councils, the Cobblers supporters’ trust and FA Northamptonshire about funding new facilities. Later in the meeting he hinted that a portion of around £50,000 raised by the supporters trust during the recent crisis at Sixfields could go toward a new training ground, but those discussions were ongoing.

As for the matchday experience he said the fans’ village, first introduced for the home game against Portsmouth, will be staying until the end of the season.

A new outdoor bar will become a permanent fixture outside Sixfields at home games courtesy of Northampton based brewery Carlsberg.

He said there are also discussions on putting a floral arrangement on the grass bank outside the ground - and the new chairman quipped, with an element of seriousness, that a slide similar to that seen near Newcastle United’s ground, could even be a fixture in coming years for younger fans to enjoy.

One popular announcement was that the club had applied to Northampton Borough Council to allow it to serve alcohol at half time, which is currently restricted.

On the pitch he said the club would not be looking to offload players this January and has now employed a “head of recruitment” John Dreyer to set up a scouting system. He said he was “shocked” the club did not have a recruitment scheme in place to seek out new talent.

Mr Thomas also announced plans to set up an under 21s development squad, for players aged 18 and above who still need nurturing before being introduced to the full team.

One final question put to the new chairman, who is currently splitting his time between Northampton and his family in Florida, was how long he envisaged staying with Northampton Town.

He answered: “My motto has always been never say never.

“My intention is that my family will come over here in the summer, now that’s not a six-month commitmentm that’s a relatively long time commitment.

“I’m not one for giving a time frame, but for us this is a medium to long-term commitment.”