The New Hotel End? Cobblers fans launch ambitious project to create 'landmark' safe-standing end at Sixfields
'We see potential to work with the university, schools and colleges to provide rehearsal, performance and technical space for performing artists and supporting crew.'
A group of Cobblers supporters have launched an ambitious new project to 'revolutionise' part of Sixfields and create a landmark safe-standing end for Northampton Town.
The New Hotel End is a fan-led scheme for a new home end with an outdoor music venue and fan-park centered around the North Stand. The concept capacity is 1,800 but could be increased.
The stand design is revolutionary because it is a hybrid music festival stage/football stand with a built-in stage to the rear. The built-in stage can be used for DJs and bands on matchdays and also to hold gigs and events at other times.
The New Hotel End working group - made up of Tom Reed (football writer), Brendan Walsh (Universal Records Group & Cobblers fan) and Keith Buckby (NTFC Supporters' Trust) - see potential for the Cobblers to become a unique club with Sixfields a hub for live music, fan culture and community outreach.
More details about the project can be found on their recently-launched website www.newhotelend.com as well as Twitter (@newhotelend) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/newhotelend),
The scheme is fan-led but the club have given their blessing for its initial exploration.
Cobblers chief executive James Whiting said: "Kelvin (Thomas) and I had a good meeting with Tom on Zoom and he talked us through the concept which, of course, conceptually looks very interesting.
“We did stress this has to be a fan-led initiative as we do not know the national or even local music scene and wouldn’t have the skill set or knowledge base to know if a music venue like this was even viable.
“Tom explained the Trust was providing funding for the project so we expect they have already done some research if they have committed funds and we agreed with Tom that we would be interested in further discussion as they develop the viability and the costings further.
“We discussed, if the viability looks good and they are successful on the financing raise, then probably the best approach would be like the GT’s at Plymouth Argyle where the supporters group lease or rent the space to run the facility.
“Kelvin has also since spoken to the chairman at Plymouth to find out more how that operates, and we expect a follow up call or Zoom with Tom and the group as they develop more details on the project.”
The plans have already attracted the support of Northampton boxing gym Team Shoe-Box, the home of leading local boxer Kieron Conway.
The gym view the New Hotel End as a possible space to hold public weigh-ins and to promote the work it does with boxing in the local community. Both parties see an opportunity to combine the strength of support for both the Cobblers and boxing in Northampton.
Those behind the idea explain: "We see potential to work with the university, schools and colleges to provide rehearsal, performance and technical space for performing artists and supporting crew.
"The North Stand space has multi use potential outside of match-days including an England fan-park for Euros and World Cup, an outdoor cinema, A F1 fan-park for the British Grand Prix and an NFL fan-zone with tailgate party etc etc.
"The plans come with three-stage potential to hold music festivals on the site with the possibility for festivals built around a match in what is a unique concept. Northampton rapper Slowthai recently announced his own festival 'Happyland' at the cricket club and this is the sort of event the New Hotel End project would have ambitions of hosting."
With regards to financing and viability, the Northampton Town Supporters' Trust have provided some initial funding to kickstart the project and commission Dave Boyle for the initial funding roadmapping.
Those behind the scheme are also currently working with a leading project management company called Mott MacDonald to bring the plans to fruition. The company see potential for the concept to work at other clubs to bring in much needed non-matchday revenues.
Furthermore, the NHE is being advised by two leaders in the fan-investment of football infrastructure projects, Tifosy and the Community Shares Company.
Tifosy Capital Advisory offer various fan-funding tools to raise capital for such infrastructure improvement projects as the New Hotel End and have completed a new North Stand project at Stevenage FC using mini-bonds.
The Community Shares Company, meanwhile, offers a platform for communities to invest in improvements to social institutions such as football clubs and they have achieved infrastructure schemes at teams like FC United of Manchester and Lewes FC..
On what happens next, the working group adds: "The New Hotel End have commissioned Dave Boyle of the Community Shares company to map an initial funding framework using the most suitable fan-funding solution.
"After that we have a path planned through to a full-feasibility study with Mott Macdonald which will take the project to the verge of a project raise. All with minimum demands of the fan-base and with minimum delay. No money is being sought from fans at this stage.
"At the capital raise stage, dependent on sponsorship and grant uptake, fans and the local community will likely be asked to invest in the project but to an affordable and achievable level."