The club’s contractors, Buckingham Group, took over the site on Tuesday morning (May 26th), and after two days of setting up fencing and bringing in equipment the process of demolishing the Sturtridge Pavilion has started.
Northampton Saints chairman Tony Hewitt says that while there is always a tinge of sadness when a development begins, it is quickly replaced by excitement at the prospect of what is to come.
“The Sturtridge Pavilion has been standing for 50 years, so it’s sad in one respect that it’s part of our history,” he said. “But it’s exciting looking forward to the completion of the bowl here at Franklin’s Gardens and upgrading our facilities.
“We’ve sold out each game this season and it’s important that we continue to grow and expand, and we need those 1,900 seats.
“We’re continuing our policy of expanding Franklin’s Gardens gradually – this will take us up to just under 15,500 – and then selling out all our seats, and upgrading our facilities for match days and non-match days.”
The Sturtridge Pavilion was first opened in 1966, and underwent several expansions between then and the turn of the century.
The development of the north end of the stadium was first announced in May 2009, with the intervening six years see the plans being refined into what is now going to be developed. But this period has actually helped the Saints and its contractors, with the extended off-season created by England’s hosting of Rugby World Cup 2015 giving more time for the Barwell Stand to be built.
“This season we can’t play any Aviva Premiership games until the quarter final stages of the World Cup on the weekend of October 16th and 17th,” Hewitt continued. “That has helped us. It’s likely that we’ll have our first home game here in early November, when we’ll have seats and the control room in place, and then the remainder of it will be completed in the remainder of the year. It’s still a very tight programme.
Hewitt added that the Saints and its contractors had quickly established a strong bond since their agreement was reached at the end of 2014.
“We’ve built a great relationship with Buckingham Group,” he said. “They’ve undertaken a lot of enabling work since being appointed as our contractors to have all the details ready for taking over the site this week.”