Luton Town CEO, Gary Sweet, has hailed the “miraculous” work that has gone into making Kenilworth Road fit for the Premier League.
Yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) 3-2 Carabao Cup win over League Two club Gillingham was used as an effective test event for the fast-track redevelopment work that has been carried out at Kenilworth Road since Luton secured promotion from the Championship last season.
Work began the day after Luton triumphed in the Championship play-off final on May 27, focused on the development of a new Bobbers Stand. The new stand received an interim safety certificate last week which enabled it to operate at 75% capacity for yesterday’s fixture.
Tickets cannot be made available to fans for a test event, so tickets in the Bobbers were distributed free to displaced hospitality guests, members of the local community affected by the redevelopment works in and around Kenilworth Road, contractors and staff.
Luton was last month forced to postpone its first home match in the Premier League as Kenilworth Road underwent a range of improvements to meet top-flight requirements. Luton had been due to host fellow newly promoted club Burnley on August 19 but the extent of the upgrades meant that the club could not “absolutely guarantee” that any future unforeseen issues would not cause any delay that would potentially impact the fixture.
Luton’s first home match of the Premier League season will now be against West Ham United on Friday, with the club also announcing yesterday that all available tickets had sold out. Speaking ahead of last night’s game, as the club detailed further changes to the Kenilworth Road experience, Sweet said: “The last 13 weeks since Wembley have gone by in a flash. The work undertaken around the ground has been nothing short of miraculous.
“We have worked around the clock in order to get Kenilworth Road into the shape it is to welcome you tonight. There will be operational snags here and there, and tonight areas which you will be accustomed to using will be unavailable and in these situations we ask for your patience and understanding.
“However, while it has been a necessity to upgrade facilities for our friends in the media, we have also invested in amenities for supporters in order to enhance their matchday experience and to compensate for the changes. Our thanks go to all residents and staff who have endured the last three months.”
Kenilworth Road had a capacity of 10,356 last season, but the Bobbers Stand upgrade has brought this up to over 11,300, on a similar level to AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium as the lowest capacity venues in the Premier League.
Luton has played at Kenilworth Road stadium since 1905 but the club has been engaged in a long-running effort to deliver a new stadium under the Power Court masterplan. Ahead of the play-off final in May, the club said that groundworks for the new 19,500-capacity stadium should begin by the turn of the year, with the construction period for the stadium itself estimated at around 24-30 months.