The Northampton Saints board of directors has agreed to enter into negotiations with Northampton Borough Council over the provision of funding for the new North Stand at Franklin’s Gardens.
Following “positive recent meetings” between the club’s management and representatives from the borough council, the Saints directors last night approved the progression of the talks into formal negotiations for a loan to fund the £5 million development.
Furthermore, the board of directors will also instruct the club’s team of professionals to submit a full planning application as soon as possible with a view to build the new North Stand in the summer of 2015.
With much preparation work having already been done, including a pre-planning submission and a full public consultation, acting chairman Tony Hewitt said he was delighted to be able take the next step.
He said: “Last night’s decision represents an important step in the expansion of Franklin’s Gardens.
“Obviously all of the directors are aware that the development of Franklin’s Gardens has taken a lot longer than we originally anticipated, and that supporters may have been frustrated by an apparent lack of progress.
“However we have worked hard to put ourselves into a position where a full planning application can be submitted without any further delay, including having all of the plans drawn up, conducting a full public consultation and pre-planning submissions, and completing important deals to purchase the land at the north end of the stadium that would enable the stand to be built.
“It is also important to remember why we have taken our time, making sure that the club’s long-term sustainability remains unharmed. This time next year we will have paid off all our debts from our previous developments, and by building the new North Stand in 2015 we will be ideally placed to reap the rewards of the next Rugby World Cup, which of course has matches being played in Milton Keynes and will see the sport’s profile dramatically increase in the area.
“The current administration of the borough council have been very supportive, and we thank the leader David Mackintosh for his constructive attitude. We look forward to continuing our positive discussions into formal negotiations that will enable us to fund the North Stand in a viable, responsible manner.”
Northampton Borough Council leader David Mackintosh said that he was confident that the coming negotiations could be completed quickly and diligently.
He said: “Maintaining a long-term viability and ensuring that the club continues to be a focus of top class sport in Northampton has been a long-standing commitment of the Saints management.
“It speaks volumes that in a climate where professional sports clubs have taken on more and more debt that the Saints are actually in a position where they are about to become debt-free.
“This makes me confident that an investment from the Borough Council would be well placed. Not only is the Saints on a solid financial footing, but the expanded Franklin’s Gardens would enable the club and the town as a whole to benefit from Rugby World Cup 2015, bringing more people into Northampton to watch top class rugby.
“With their plans already drawn up and the planning process already well on its way I am looking forward to seeing the new North Stand be built sooner rather than later.”
The new North Stand at Franklin’s Gardens represents a £5 million investment.
The stand will include 1,900 seats, a new Members’ Bar on the ground floor, an enlarged hospitality suite, 10 executive boxes compared to 21 at present, a state-of-the-art control room, TV studio and improved access and viewing areas for disabled supporters.
When it is completed, the North Stand will increase Franklin’s Gardens’ capacity from its current 13,591 to 15,500, thereby giving the Saints the ability to hold every regular season home game in Northampton, including possible Heineken Cup quarter finals.
Meanwhile the Saints have this morning announced a partnership with Northampton Borough Council to promote the town’s culture, leisure and business opportunities.
Tying in with the successful ‘Love Northampton’ campaign, this new partnership is aimed at bringing more away supporters into Northampton, encouraging more home fans to make their day in Northampton about more than just rugby, and promoting the Northampton Waterside Enterprise Zone to the national and international businesses.
Over the coming year the club and Council will create bespoke packages for rugby supporters, which will include match tickets at Franklin’s Gardens and a variety of other offers and events.
The club said the partnership will also lay the groundwork for both the Saints as a club and Northampton as a town to capitalise on the long-term legacy of the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Saints chief executive Allan Robson said: “Supporters from every club who attend matches at Franklin’s Gardens will be able to enjoy special offers from a range of businesses, who in turn will benefit from increased footfall.
“With the Rugby World Cup coming to the East Midlands in 2015, we have to be ready to reap the rewards of the increased profile and attention that the sport will have. This does not only mean having more supporters for the Saints, but also making sure that these gains are felt across Northampton, too.
“And if we can help the Borough Council attract companies into the Waterside Enterprise Zone, then that will bring new jobs and investment that will benefit the wider population.
“Council leader David Mackintosh has been proactive in building a productive relationship with us over the past couple of years, and this agreement will take it to the next level. We are excited by it, and are looking forward to working closely to make it succeed.”
To celebrate the launch of the new partnership the Saints and Northampton Borough Council are giving five supporters the opportunity to win pairs of tickets for the forthcoming Delapre Alive concert featuring Brit Award winner James Morrison on Sunday, July 21.
To enter visit www.lovenorthampton.co.uk/lovesaints