What exactly is the "gargantuan task" at Kenilworth Road if Luton Town were to be promoted
Firstly I would like to preface this by saying, I am not Gary Sweet, nor am I a member of 2020 Developments Ltd. (The development arm of our fine Football Club custodians), therefore I cannot say with absolute conviction what the "gargantuan task" is that was laid out by Gary Sweet during his Radio 4 interview on the 11th of April, which you can listen to here courtesy of We Are Luton Town. However, I can present and postulate upon what has been presented to the Luton Borough Council by Gary Sweet and his fellow custodians.
Firstly if you look at the planning section on the Luton Borough website, you will notice that plans were submitted following our playoff finish during the 21/22 season on the 6th May 2022 and accepted by the council on the 6th July 2022. Therefore you can tell that the board have been one step ahead of the game. Gary Sweet mentioned to BBC Radio 4:
We’ve got around £8million, maybe £10million of improvements to do, which is pretty much rebuilding one stand in about less than three months, which is some task that we’ve got on our hands."
“It’s just really to comply with the Premier League’s broadcasting requirements and some facility requirements that are needed.”
First thing to note when looking at the plans, they clearly indicate which stand is being discussed regarding being rebuilt, and that stand is the Executive Boxes, formerly known as the Bobbers Stand. Which is clearly indicated in the Block Plan. But why not the Oak Road End, Kenilworth Road End or the Main Stand? The Oak Road end is limited by the houses that are adjacent to the stand, it would be a monumental challenge to alter this stand considering planning the disruption it would cause to the neighbours. The Kenilworth Road End is absolutely fine, and had an extra 300 seats added to it in 2005. The Main Stand is very outdated and would require a lot of work to essentially rebuild it, more than could certainly be done in 3 months between seasons.
Firstly a bit of history about the Bobbers stand and the club in general. Luton Town prides itself on having one of the oldest football supporters' associations in the nation. The club owes its gratitude to the dedicated members who worked tirelessly to collect funds for the construction of a roof over the Beech Hill path side of the stadium in 1933. Concurrently, concrete steps were also established over the tinder banking, while the subterranean space was excavated to create an expansive supporters' club venue. This section of the stadium, dubbed the Bobbers Stand due to its admission fee of one shilling (equivalent to 5p), remained unaltered until 1973, when seats were eventually added. The current executive boxes were installed during the summer of 1986, with the Bobbers' seats being removed (not courtesy of Millwall fans).
This is what it looked like when it was a full seater stand:
Prior to the installation of the SKF Clock, and the building of the Executive Boxes which occurred in 1986, since this picture the dugouts were relocated from the main stand to this side of the pitch | Photo Credit Bob Lilliman
When compared to the current Executive Boxes that stand in it's place, it certainly provides more character as well as a lot more seats, over 1,500 in fact! Although the Bobbers stand cannot compare to the revenue brought in by the Executive Boxes. Which are a very enjoyable experience if you get the chance to watch a game from one.
Since this picture was taken for the Football Ground Guide, a temporary Television Gantry has been added to the top of the Executive Boxes, in line with our promotion to the Championship in 2019, whereby it was stipulated that the Broadcast view had to be switched to the other side of the stadium.
The crows nest situated in the middle is where the main broadcast camera is situated. The structure it's under is temporary, and the walkway, although sturdy is still a semi-permanent structure. During matches you can see Paul Trollope up there watching the match unfold with a tactical POV.
However, if Luton Town were to get promoted, as described in the Design and Access statement, the gantry will be improved to comfortably accommodate cameras in order to facilitate major broadcasters:
"The works are necessary should the Club be promoted to the Premier League. This will up-grade the existing facilities which do not meet Premier League standards"
Looking at the existing structure schematics, the gantry at the top does not stretch the entire length of the pitch, and only one section is covered, also current access is trepidatious
Comparing it to the structure proposed in May 2022
The entire length of the pitch would be covered by the new gantry (at 105.6m in length), as well as the structure looking less temporary, albeit, still a semi permanent structure with permission being granted under the agreement that these structures are there to keep the Kenny rocking until the Club relocates. It's important to note that with this new structure there is stair access to the gantry, as opposed to the ladder that is currently in place.
The real interest component of what could be happening to the Executive Boxes comes when you compare the cross sectional images.
Interestingly, both of these images show existing step like structures underneath the executive boxes, meaning the infrastructure is still currently in place if seats were to be put in, one such instance being for increased media services, which is required for Premier League matches. We could expect media coverage to greatly increase with reporters joining from all over the World to get a look at Mo Salah, Erling Haaland and Phil Jones.
As shown in one of the images above of the Executive Boxes, you should note that the warm up goalposts leaning up against the boxes are 7 foot tall, meaning there is quite a clearance from between pitch level and the ground of the boxes.
With the work to be done, it is highly possible that a few rows of seating are put under the Boxes, with all the mod cons required for reporters today, desks big enough for "modern laptops", plug sockets. This would of course require the base of the Executive Boxes to be reinforced. One would also assume that the dugouts could be incorporated into the stand with media reporters flanking the dugouts on either side. Premier League teams come with a big entourage, 9 substitutes to be named on the bench as well as lots and lots of things to plug in! Building back a few rows could allow all the members of staff and players a place to sit, instead of spilling out to the side of the dugout as is the norm at the Kenny. Also work can be undertaken to ensure that these swathes of analytic, tactician and throw-in coaches, all have somewhere to plug in their tablets.
In addition to these potential changes, in the schematics above, it appears as if the roof of the Executive Boxes would be altered too in order for the new gantry to stand above it, with the overhang on the boxes being removed and therefore the cameras being able to sit further back and not be on top of the action, as shown in the original image on the left.
The reason why I believe that new seating will be incorporated underneath the Executive Boxes is because Gary Sweet mentioned that it would involve "almost completely rebuilding one of the stands". In addition to this the cost mentioned between £8-10 million, suggests a comprehensive overhauling of the existing structure.
To bookend this piece, just to say, this is all speculative and potentially new plans could be submitted to Luton Borough Council prior to the end of this season. Regardless, this would indeed be a gargantuan task, overhauling the Executive Boxes. It is indeed the correct stand to alter with easy access through Beech Path, no immediate neighbours to disturb as well as some existing infrastructure in place underneath the boxes, as well as broadcasting infrastructure up top.
Featured Photo of the Bobbers Stand taken by Bob Lilliman