Cobblers unveil ambitious new plans for East Stand redevelopment at PTS Academy Stadium

The Cobblers have unveiled images and ambitious plans for the proposed development of the east stand at the PTS Academy Stadium - as well as hopes for the future development of the surrounding land.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 7:01 pm
A computer generated image of the how the new east stand would look
A computer generated image of the how the new east stand would look

The club hosted an 'open house session' for supporters to attend on Friday afternoon, where the east stand plans were laid out in detail, and computer generated images of how the stand will look when completed were revealed and displayed.

The images showed that the existing structure of the stand would be 'enhanced', and include a string of pitch-facing hospitality boxes, a new viewing platform for disabled supporters, as well as further commercial and hospitality areas.

On completion, the capacity of the stadium would rise to more than 8,000, with plans in place to expand both the north and south stands if a further increase in capacity were ever required.

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The east stand as it looks today

Chairman Kelvin Thomas was at the PTS to answer supporters' questions, and it will be hoped on all sides that this really is the beginning of the end of this long-running saga and stand is finally completed.

Work began on the redevelopment back in the summer of 2015, but the stand has stood half-finished since then as a reminder of the failed £10.25m loan to the club from Northampton Borough Council back in 2014.

Work on the stand stalled due to the financial crisis that engulfed the club in the autumn of 2015, and although new seats were installed in March, 2016 after Thomas had taken over the club to at least make it usable, the rest of the structure has remained a shell ever since.

It has long been an eyesore and a source of some embarrassment to the club, but Thomas has made it clear that he and his fellow owner David Bower remain totally committed to the club, and to building a stand the club can be proud of.

A new car park would be built to the rear of the east stand

And after extensive meetings and talks with the new West Northamptonshire Council, that recently replaced NBC, the Cobblers published full plans of what they hope to achieve with the stand and the surrounding land, and how it will all be finalised.

In that, they confirmed that the new east stand will be 'developed to the best possible standard in a financially prudent way for the long-term benefit of the football club', and that the stand 'needs to be completed before any development (of other land) takes place'.

They added that the stand 'will be built with funds from the football club (its owners)', the club 'will be asking for no funding from WNC' and that the club will 'take on any development risk'

They also added that 'any excess funds generated from the CDNL development land or any land surrounding the stadium site will be generated for the benefit of the football club'.

The centre section of the new east stand

Talks are ongoing with the WNC, but the club revealed the council had already agreed to many considerations, including that 'the east stand is completed', that the 'WNC receive best value for any land based on external independent professional advice', that all 'plans being discussed with WNC are subject to final full council approval' and that 'any development plans for the site remain subject to planning permissions as appropriate'.

The full statement from the football club to supporters reads as follows:

"As we make progress, we wanted to share some of the designs, new CGI images and benefits for the football club. We also have a set of guiding principles which we will follow.

"The Council also have their own considerations which are agreed by the club.

The north stand end of the east stand

"It cannot be underestimated the challenges that have come along with this opportunity, and we accept the process has taken longer than everyone, including us, would have anticipated, but in truth we feel this is not due to any one thing or any one person.

"As guardians of the club, we have to take decisions that are in the short, medium and long-term interests of the club to ensure we protect the football club for future generations. We take that responsibility very seriously.

"When you add up the problems with the leases that were inherited, the CVA process, the current ground conditions, the politics of what went on before our ownership, the police and council investigations regarding what went on before our ownership, the ownership itself of the stand, the change of local authority, and the COVID-19 pandemic to name a few things, hopefully fans can understand a little more.

"However, that all being said, we are positive about the direction we are heading and felt confident enough that a few months ago we were able to commission these conceptual images to show both the council, supporters and stakeholders what we are trying to achieve with the East Stand.

"In terms of the East Stand design, over time we have researched and discussed in detail the various options including changing the overall design, improving what is there or knocking the whole structure down but following this research, the decision was taken to enhance the existing structure rather than major changes to the footprint.

"These decisions were taken in consideration of both existing planning consents and return on investment for the football club.

Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas

"This will be the first time in the club’s history that pitch facing hospitality has been available to the commercial department and by adding boxes and hospitality areas in the stand this gives the club the ability to not only increase commercial revenue but also increase the value proposition for existing and new partners.

"With the addition of the boxes and the increased hospitality areas this will also increase stadium capacity to slightly over 8,000, and while this is not a significant increase from the current capacity, the cost/return financial projections would not justify a major change to the structure at this time just to increase capacity.

"It was decided that any capacity increases would be more prudent at the North or South ends of the stadium and with this in mind we look forward to furthering discussion with The New Hotel End project being introduced by the fans.

"It is well known we are also discussing a wider development opportunity with the new West Northamptonshire Council, formerly Northampton Borough Council, but we both have already agreed that the building of the East Stand will be completed before any other development takes place.

"Because the football club now has 100 per cent ownership of the company CDNL who control the leases to approximately 22 acres of land next to the club the benefit of the any agreement will go to the football club.

"The football club has never officially controlled this land previously and it was only when the current owner transferred the ownership of these leases to the football club that this became an asset.

"As with any major development project or the building of any stand it is always a fluid position and as we go through the process there will be further consultation with fans and stakeholders about some more of the detail including things like naming some of the boxes and lounges with heroes of the past, what the concourse area should include, what the fan park could look like etc. and we very much look forward to those conversations.

"There is a lot of people at the club that have worked very hard to get to this point and are really excited about the possibility of the East Stand and we all hope the fans like the look of what can be built.

The Guiding PrinciplesThe football club’s guiding principles for the East Stand and land development are;

• The East Stand needs to be developed to the best possible standard in a financially prudent way for the long-term benefit of the football club

• The East Stand needs to be completed before any development takes place

• Provide pitch facing hospitality options for the football club

• The preferred deal for the football club is an Option Agreement with WNC to enable the club to buy the freehold CDNL land with the option only being exercised when the East Stand is complete

• CDNL is a wholly owned subsidiary of the football club

• The East Stand will be built with funds from the football club (owners)

• Football club are asking for no funding from WNC

• Football club site to remain leasehold with WNC

• Football club will take on any development risk

• Any excess funds generated from the CDNL development land or any land surrounding the stadium site will be generated for the benefit of the football club.

The Council’s main considerations below have also been agreed by the football club;

• The East Stand is completed

• WNC receive best value for any land based on external independent professional advice

• All the plans being discussed with WNC are subject to final full council approval

• Any development plans for the site remain subject to planning permissions as appropriate

• That the Asset of Community Value has transferred to WNC from NBC

Benefits to the football club

There are many benefits to NTFC including;

• East Stand completion

Completion of the East Stand is the priority of any agreement and by using the ownership of the land leases this can hopefully be completed without adding further long-term debt to the football club.

• Income generated for the club from the East Stand

There will be additional income generated on matchdays and non-matchdays from the new hospitality areas and boxes.

• Pitch facing hospitality

Pitch facing hospitality not only brings increased revenue but also greater prestige, exposure and value for possible partners. Having pitch facing hospitality can also increase non-matchday revenues as many companies see a benefit to meetings and events with the pitch as a backdrop.

• Disabled viewing platform

The football club will consult further with disabled and wheelchair supporters and Level Playing Field in the final design process but access for disabled and wheelchair supporters to the hospitality and disabled platform areas to replace the disabled platform lost from the previous East Stand is a priority.

• New parking situated on site

A completed East Stand will provide additional parking behind the East Stand; plus the football club plans a review of all the parking on site to enable better design and management across the whole site.

• Potential new partners

Once the possible warehouse development on the enabling development land is complete there will be new large companies moving in which will offer potential new commercial partners for the club.

• Community use of East Stand

The new facilities will be available for use by both Northampton Town FC Community Trust and the club’s education department.

This will provide meeting rooms for community groups, space for programmes aimed at health and wellbeing and teaching space. It will allow us to increase our engagement with schools offering an alternative learning environment and positive experiences for local youngsters.

There will also be improved activities and facilities for families on matchdays as well as additional hospitality at the community pitch activities that take place each summer including local cup finals.

• Improved financial stability for the football club

Increased revenue will always add stability to a football club and provide better financial protections for longer term success.

• Potential Fan Zone

Space for a Fan Zone project has been earmarked behind the new East Stand and further consultation would be planned to decide on the best usage. More discussions are also planned with the New Hotel End project to ensure that the potential Fan Zone areas behind the East and North End complement each other.

• Increased asset base for football club

CDNL and the development land have never been formally owned by the football club previously and only became an asset of the football club when transferred to the club current owners.

As CDNL is now owned by the football club then any land acquisition and/or development gain will be an asset of the football club.