Luton Town has given a fresh update to its new stadium plans ahead of the biggest game in the football club’s recent history this weekend, while confirming that it will need to spend around £10m (€11.5m/$12.3m) on its existing Kenilworth Road home, should promotion to the Premier League be secured.
Luton takes on Coventry City in the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium tomorrow (Saturday), with a place in the top flight on offer in what is dubbed the richest game in club football.
Having played in the Conference Premier, now the National League, as recently as the 2013-14 season, Luton is seeking to return to the top division for the first time since 1991-92, while Coventry also has its own recovery story with the two clubs playing each other in League Two just five years ago.
Luton’s potential return to the top flight has again served to shine a spotlight on its stadium situation. Kenilworth Road, its historic and characterful home, is currently unsuitable for Premier League football, while the club has been engaged in a long-running effort to deliver a new stadium under the Power Court masterplan.
In January 2022, Newlands Park, a mixed-use development deemed crucial for the successful delivery of a new stadium, was approved. In October 2021, Luton stated that it intended to submit final plans for its new stadium in the first half of 2022, stating the project was moving at a “blistering pace”.
The COVID-19 pandemic served to delay efforts, but Luton has now stated that “very good progress” is being made at Power Court as final designs are drawn up. Luton yesterday (Thursday) said that a detailed planning application is due to be submitted during the close-season, with the club’s development arm, 2020 Developments, releasing new imagery of the planned new stadium in the heart of the town centre.
Subject to a consented detailed planning application, acting as the centrepiece of a regeneration of a 20-acre site adjacent to Luton Railway Station, the Power Court site already benefits from outline planning consent and the club has now completed land assembly for the whole site with the demolition of the last few buildings.
Luton said groundworks for the new stadium should begin by the turn of the year with the construction period for the stadium itself estimated at around 24-30 months. Chief executive, Gary Sweet, said: “We’re delighted the infrastructure element is underway allowing us to develop the detail of the stadium’s design and, in particular, work hard to capture the core characteristics that makes Kenilworth Road so atmospheric, so intimate and so special to us.
“This season, perhaps more than any other, has demonstrated the incredible relationship we all have with The Kenny and that has been the driving force behind our design work.”
Michael Moran, chief operating officer of 2020 Developments, added: “The next phase now is an engagement with Luton Council and key stakeholders such as the Environment Agency and Historic England as we take them all through our detailed design process.
“We are also engaging with contractors as we finalise certain construction features but our target for completion is 2026, regardless of the club’s league position. We also must not lose sight of the fact the stadium is to be accompanied by a whole new town quarter for Luton with 1,200 homes, leisure, restaurants, bars, retail and community space. It is incredibly exciting to be at the forefront of the Borough’s wider regeneration plans.”
The latest images released represent Power Court Stadium in its first phase of development at a capacity of 19,500, which will include around a third as safe-standing. A second phase will see another 4,000 seats or standing seats added. The club states these can be developed as demand dictates, without too much disruptive upheaval.
Sweet said: “We know everyone is desperate for the new stadium to open – as are we. It’s clearly a hugely complicated project but the main aim has always been to maintain the architectural quality and to deliver a stadium that replicates an essential, unique character we are all so familiar with but also fit and ready to grace the Premier League stage.”
Luton Town has played at the 10,300-seat Kenilworth Road stadium since 1905, with its characteristics making it one of the most unique venues to visit in English football. Luton has long been considering upgrades to meet its growing ambition, but promotion tomorrow will make these a necessity.
In order to meet Premier League standards, work including redevelopment of the Bobbers Stand and the installation of new floodlights will need to be completed. Sweet added: “The only thing we’ve been told is that there’s a set of criteria… it’s Rule K of the Premier League Handbook which we’ve got to comply with, it’s work we’ve got to undertake.
“We have no complaints about that, it’s going to cost roughly £10m, we have no complaints as it’s part of the inclusion of the membership. It’s a deal to be done and we’re happy. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it properly and we will.”