'Exciting times' as Poppies get ready to show off ground improvements
Kettering Town will open the gates of Latimer Park up to their fans for the first time since March this weekend.
And when the Poppies supporters take a look around, they will see a different picture to what they have been used to over the past few years.
While the Covid-19 pandemic spelled the end of action on the pitch, work has continued off it to ensure Kettering meet the ground grading to keep them in the National League North.
Over £160,000 has been spent on new turnstiles, a new 250-seater stand and tiered terracing.
And chairman David Mahoney believes the club now find themselves in a position they could “only have dreamed of” four or five years ago.
“There’s certainly been a lot going on at Latimer Park, with improvements to the look of the ground, its facilities and ultimately the capacity,” Mahoney said.
“From the moment people arrive they will see the changes with a cleaner, more structured entrance, giving the ground an immediate identity.
“The most noticeable introduction on the boundary is the introduction of a six-turnstile container, accessed via new steps with an incorporated ramp.
“And inside we now have the new 250-seater stand, almost 100 meters of new tiered terracing, along with a new KidsZone terrace.
“Add to that two new away turnstiles, a medical room, enhancements within the hospitality areas, including a major redecoration of the clubhouse, and yes it’s fair to say a lot happened.
“If we think back four or five years, this is a position we could only have dreamed of.
“There has certainly been considerable investment at the ground and, at the last review, we’re talking of an amount in excess of £160,000.
“This is money spent to date and doesn’t include financial commitments for pitch works and other works we’re aiming to complete, so it’s been an expensive period.
“Thankfully we have benefited from some of the government backed schemes, along with a grant from the Football Foundation and we can’t forget the considerable contributions received from our fans via the President’s Appeal, Trust collection and individual donations.
“We also have some fantastic sponsors who have really stepped forward to help out and we’ll be making further announcements on that front in the weeks to come.”
The main target for the Poppies has been to get the ground up to the appropriate standard.
The grading looks set to take place shortly but even after then, there will be further improvements with another covered terrace currently being constructed after a Kettering Town (Poppies) Supporters Trust-led campaign helped raise £25,000 to purchase it.
“The grading has to be officially completed by the end of July, so we expect it to be scheduled for the first part of the month,” Mahoney added.
“Like a new house we’re just running through the snagging phase, to make sure that we have everything ready for their visit.
“One of the challenges we’ve had is that we have to get the ground grading completed as a priority, so the decision was taken to put the new 250-seater stand at the ‘BM Pallets end’ of the ground and position the terrace elsewhere, albeit temporarily.
“The new terrace is being constructed and will be in position before the start of the new season.”
This Saturday, the Poppies will be opening their clubhouse for the first time since the campaign ended, with government regulations and social distancing measures being followed.
They will be offering small group tours of the ground from 11am so fans can see the improvements for themselves while manager Paul Cox, assistant-boss John Ramshaw and first-team coach Ben Marvin will also be in attendance to answer questions.
And while Mahoney has been fully focused on ground issues, he believes there are exciting times ahead both off the pitch and on it after Cox led the Poppies to safety after they had looked doomed to relegation at the beginning of November.
“Things are good at the club and there’s a growing excitement that football will be back soon,” the Kettering chairman said.
“As you can imagine I’m very much focused on the ‘here and now’ at present but once the grading is completed and we get an update on when the new season will start then I can start looking ahead to the new season too.
“These really are exciting times for the Poppies and I hope our fans like what they see off the pitch and like what Paul and the squad deliver on it.
“The pandemic has changed so many things and in reality none of us know what’s around the corner but Paul is working to make sure that we’re ready for when we get the green light for the new season.”