David Cardoza answers some questions regarding the Sixfields redevelopment
Why change from the original plans that were published last autumn?
When those plans were produced, we were told by the developers that the redevelopment wouldn't generate enough money to be able to make changes to the West Stand. That was a disappointment because we always wanted to make changes to the West Stand to improve the club's infrastructure. However, bearing in mind the advice at that stage, a lot more was being spent on the East Stand. Since then, however, we have found a way to make a lot of changes internally to the West Stand which means we have had to make changes to the East Stand plans to compensate. This doesn't mean the East Stand is being done on the cheap, it will still be an impressive stand with excellent facilities for supporters and guests but by doing things this way, for the sake of the alterations to the East, more of the stadium is improved for the benefit of the entire club. To compound the issue the cost for the stand / Conference Centre from the original drawings were above the total amount of money we had to spend, and it became quite apparent early on that this was the case. That architect is no longer involved in the project.
What facilities will be in the East Stand?
It is a brand new stand on three floors consisting of 10 corporate boxes, an elevated viewing area for disabled supporters, a Legends Lounge, a large indoor supporters village and a large indoor family area with activities for children such as Playstations, inflatables and face painting.
What facilities will be in the West Stand?
Most of the changes to the West Stand will be internal, and will include a new club shop, a new, more professional reception area, new club offices, new dressing rooms for home and away teams and new changing facilities for the match officials, a new office for the manager, a players gymnasium, a players medical area, an away supporters bar, a home supporters bar and a media room.
That doesn't concern me as a fan. I would rather the East Stand had stayed with the original plan.
These are important changes for the benefit of the whole club. For too long, this club hasn't had the necessary infrastructure to move forward. Any money the club has had has been spent on decent contracts for players which is great at the time, but those contracts end, those players move on and the club is no further forward. We have made mistakes in the past by not addressing the club's lack of infrastructure. This is our big opportunity to do this, to create a much better, much more professional working environment for the players, to create more office space as the club grows, to bring the dressing rooms up to and beyond League 1/League 2 standard etc etc. In some of these areas, including the dressing rooms, the facilities for match officials and the entrance to the Director's Box, Sixfields has been below the requirements of the Football League for some years and we have to change that. These are necessary changes for the long term. It might not be popular, but for the good of the club we need to show strong leadership and direction and give the club the facilities it needs, not cosmetic changes that make no real difference. This club has done that too often in the past and got nowhere.
Why, in 2014 are there some restricted view seats in the new stand?
We fully appreciate and accept this is not ideal. However, as explained above, we have had to make a few compromises in the East Stand to pay for the West Stand changes. Whereas the original plan generated enough money to have boxes running all down the side of the stand, the new plan doesn't. So, while the middle part of the stand has the boxes and lounges, we have room for seating towards each end. The only way to change that is to build boxes all the way along, or to put seating above the boxes. Both have cost implications and as we do not have a limitless pot of money, either option is out of our reach without compromising somewhere else. There will be less restricted view seats in reality than the artist's drawing shows. We fully accept this is not ideal, but these seats are not going to be used week in, week out. They will be sold last, when the rest of the ground is sold out, and clearly sold as restricted view. There are a number of stadia that have the same situation, some of them modern international sports stadia.
Why not remove those restricted view seats?
We could do, but we believe it is better to be able to offer a restricted view seat than no seat at all. There is no other plan for that space, so why not offer a seat, albeit a restricted view seat? On the one, two or three times a season we reach capacity, we will then open up these restricted view seats but they won't be in use until that situation is reached. We appreciate the floating supporter may well be the ones to buy those seats, but then we believe it is better to have a restricted view seat to sell that supporter than no seat at all. That is purely a judgement call/matter of opinion but we hope that by getting them along to the game, allowing them to enjoy the fans village/ family area and the atmosphere we can then hope to bring them back to a future game.
I am disappointed with new capacity, I was hoping it would be more than approx 9,000.
There was no point in sacrificing some facilities to build extra seats. There was no business sense in building extra seats if the club wasn't going to able to generate the income to deliver a team that was capable of filling them, either now or in the future. This initial redevelopment is about improving the club's infrastructure and giving the club solid, sustainable income streams, both on matchday and non-matchdays. Increasing the capacity isn’t the main priority of this part of the redevelopment, that will happen if (or when!) we progress and there is increased demand for the tickets which means we need more seats on more occasions than 2 or 3 times a season and we can then take the capacity up further by expanding the stands behind the goals and the corners. This first part of the development is more about improving facilities and infrastructure, most of which can’t be seen in that image of the East Stand, but it will be of huge benefit to the club.
It doesn't look like the club are spending that much on the East Stand.
Don't underestimate the size of the new stand - it will be around the same size as the West Stand with brand new facilities on three floors. The artist's view is from the pitch, and a lot of the work will be behind the pitch view, including the boxes, the lounges, the fans village, the concourse and all the infrastructure to service these. The stand is being built by Buckingham Construction who are probably the most experienced stadia builders in the country.
Why were supporters not consulted more?
We are in a very difficult balancing act where if we change or improve one area, then a compromise needs to be made somewhere else. Some supporters have been very critical of the club, saying we lack the infrastructure to move forward and in many ways they are right, so this whole redevelopment is to address their views and their concerns. We have been seeking the views of the supporters on the indoor family fun area and we will work with the Trust and Centreplate to make sure the kiosk food offer is better than acceptable. One of the things we are looking at is being able to bring in local restaurants to use the kiosks to sell meals on a match by match basis so extending the choice to supporters. We have also ensured the raised disabled viewing area has been retained in accordance with the wishes of the supporters who use that area. Supporters have also said they want to see a new PA system and that is happening. Supporters have also contacted us consistently to say they want the lounges to reflect more of the club's heritage, hence we have introduced the Legends Lounge. We will continue to work with NTFC SL to ensure the views of supporters are taken into consideration as much as possible, but in order to get this loan to redevelop the stadium we had to come up with a workable business plan. We had to show the level of income we expect to achieve, and we had to spend the necessary amount to give us the facilities to achieve this. Had we spent less money on facilities and more on increasing capacity, there is no way this loan would have been secured and there would be no redevelopment. We, as a club, have to strike a balance.
What benefits are there for supporters in this redevelopment?
As well as new floodlights and a new PA system, there will be new seats for all supporters and we are also in talks with a number of suppliers about a big screen. Also, all supporters should benefit from this entire development. The whole point of this is to generate enough income to be able to push the club up the Football League and to secure the long term future of the club. The club has never before, in its 117 year history, had such facilities or such opportunities to generate income and we will carry out further development work if we progress up the Football League as we all hope we will. This initial phase of work, which will continue into next season, was about achieving maximum return for the club from the redevelopment money available and about giving the club maximum opportunity to keep earning from those facilities day after day, month after month and year after year. Supporters benefit by having that money to generate a stronger, and therefore hopefully, more successful squad.
Why do we need new floodlights? That must be expensive, could we not spend that somewhere else?
The current floodlights have fallen below Football League standard over the years, our lux reading is lower than the minimum required and they need replacing. The new floodlights will have 3 different levels, and when on full power will be of Championship standard.
Can you give us a breakdown of how the £12 million is being spent?
We have £7.5 million for the stadium works (including a significant cost towards relocating the athletics club) and Conference Centre and £4.5 million for the hotel. The new East Stand will cost around £5 million, the Conference Centre up to around £1.5 million and around £1 million on seats, floodlights, offices, sound system and West Stand works.
If we can increase the capacity via the South and North stands later, why not do it now?
We do have a plan of how to do that but it does involve generating income from the new facilities so we need them up and running. Once they are we can finance those extra seats if required. When the time comes it can be done in a close season, no problem. It doesn't make any sense to prioritise that now, as to do so means we would have to compromise somewhere else. The new East Stand means we can offer away fans around 2,000 seats via the overflow area, and adding those seats to the East Stand rather than the South gives us flexibility. If we added those seats to the South now rather than the East they could only ever be for away fans, putting them in the East means we can offer them to home or away fans depending on the fixture. I believe the capacity we will have next season of around 9,000 is about right for the level we are playing at. As we move onwards and upwards, so will our capacity.
Why do we need a hotel?
As mentioned above, this is about giving the club non-matchday income so we are not reliant on one individual or football fortune. A hotel gives the club significant, guaranteed income outside of the success or otherwise of the football.
Will this work affect the playing budget for this season?
No, that is separate and I am sure supporters can see that from the players we have kept and added to the squad. There are more new faces to come as well. The playing budget Chris Wilder has to start to the season is competitive and that can be upped as the season goes on to strengthen the squad as and when required.
Are you surprised by some supporters negativity on the project?
Absolutely. The money is being invested in facilities to take the club forward on and off the pitch. Of course having extra seats is a way of showing ambition but you will only fill them with a winning team. Generating income from the new facilities is the only way we can consistently live within our means and spend the necessary funds required to move up the leagues. Rome was not built in a day, this whole process will take some time but with the money we have to spend the decision has been made to secure the future of our club first with some increased facilities and infrastructure rather than put in extra seats which we will only possibly use a handful of times a year to try and pay the bills.
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