England: Where will Luton Town play after promotion to the Premier League?
source: StadiumDB.com; author: Kuba Kowalski
Just one game separates the Luton team from playing in England's top division. They will play for a place in the Premier League against either Middlesbrough or Coventry City. If Luton win at Wembley, the club's authorities will have to consider their future stadium.
Almost 120 years of stadium hidden among the houses
Luton, a town in Bedfordshire in the east of England, has hit the headlines for an unfortunate reason - it was voted the
worst place to live in England in an annual survey. The iLivehere study found that the vast majority of the 105,598 voters chose Luton as the
winner ahead of Peterborough. Surrounded by tight residential streets on the edge of the town centre, the floodlights of Kenilworth Road tower over the terraced houses that stand alongside. It has been the club's home since 1905.
Today it is a thing of pride, but at the time the move was a necessity as the owner of the previous stadium sold it without informing the club. From 1955 the team looked for a new home due to lack of expansion options, but to this day they have not changed location. Although Luton Town has never been one of England's biggest clubs, it has gained immeasurably at this address, achieving, for example, an average attendance of over 25,000 fans per game.
The little-known stadium may well find its way into the football history books. Indeed, it was the site of unusual restrictions. In 1985, the club implemented a ban on people from outside Luton. This controversial clause led to protests from visiting supporters and finally to the club being thrown out of the League Cup for four years. In 1990 Luton Town reversed its policy.
Luton Town with the best result of the 21st century?
The club finished the 2022/23 Championship season in third place with a loss of 11 points to second-placed Sheffield United. Luton Town won the two-match series against Sunderland by 3-2 despite losing the first leg. Back in 2014, The Hatters were still playing in the National League - the fifth tier of English football. Less than 10 years later, they are a game away from the Premier League. However, they will not be able to rely on their home pitch advantage in the deciding encounter - the final of the play-offs will take place at Wembley.
The cosy and intimate Kenilworth Road venue in the densely populated district of Bury Park is a throwback to a long-gone era of English stadiums. One would have thought that it might soon have the opportunity to host a top-tier competition for the first time in a long time. However, the arena is not Premier League compliant and renovation work needs to be done to make that happen. Fans enter one side of the Oak Road stand through one of the most unconventional entrances in the country, with turnstiles positioned between a long row of terraced houses. After passing through the barriers, they are directed into a cramped alley and then enter by a metal staircase that appears to be in the gardens of neighbouring houses. And these are just a few of the inconveniences at the stadium.
Kenilworth Road temporary, Power Court prospectively
According to Luton's owners, there is no doubt that the current facility could cope with hosting Premier League matches, but this would involve an immediate cost of around £10m. The club will have to rebuild most of the Bobbers Stand if it is successful at Wembley. The stand running down one side of the pitch is currently the smallest Kenilworth Road stand in terms of capacity and contains a row of corporate boxes.
Luton chief executive Gary Sweet said the club hoped to start building a new arena to accommodate 23,000 fans. This would happen at the end of this year or early next year. The budget for the work is around £100m. The Hatters have decided not to join the many clubs that have moved to stadiums outside the city. Instead, their new facility will be just 1.6km from the city centre.
© Luton Town FC / Leslie Jones Architects Ltd.
The club and developers first submitted plans for a new stadium on the former City Power Court site in August 2016, with permission finally granted in January 2019. It had been hoped that Power Court would be completed by 2023, but economic pressures and pandemic contributed to delays in the project. The promotion of a team from the
worst city in England to the Premier League would surely be a signal to hurry up the construction of Power Court Stadium.