There may be a three-week gap with no rugby at Franklin’s Gardens, but the stadium is nevertheless a hive of activity, with more enabling works being undertaken as part of the development of the new Barwell Stand.
The Barwell Stand is the most complicated of any of the stages of the development of Franklin’s Gardens undertaken over the past 15 years, and these enabling works are essential in ensuring that this summer’s building work stays on schedule, especially given the constrained timetable between the end of the current season and the start of the 2015/16 campaign.
Over the next fortnight Buckingham Group, the Saints’ contractors, will be digging trenches and installing cabling and services that will link the Barwell Stand to the rest of the stadium. At present many services, such as fire alarms, gas supply, etc, are stand-alone within the Sturtridge Pavilion, and the development will mean that for the first time the entirety of Franklin’s Gardens will be connected in this way.
Then during April – a month that will see no rugby being played at Franklin’s Gardens – improved drainage will be installed in front of the Church’s Stand, along with a new running track.
This period will also see the war memorial removed and cleaned, before being put into storage ahead of its repositioning in the corner between the Barwell and Tetley’s Stands. This work is being paid for and organised by the Crooked Hooker (Past Players Association), and the Saints and Crooked Hooker will also be liaising closely with the club’s chaplain over the removal and re-internment of a number of burial urns that have been located next to the war memorial over the past few decades.
Saints chairman Tony Hewitt says that these works are essential in preparing the site for the building work that will begin in May.
"The Barwell Stand is a complicated project, and it is important that works such as those being carried out over the next couple of months," he said. "We are committed to having the Barwell Stand seating finished in early November, and with such a tight schedule we need to take advantage of these periods in order to get everything in place ahead of the actual build itself.
"We’ve been delighted with the way that Buckingham Group have approached the development, and have already developed a close working relationship, which hopefully bodes well for the overall success of the project."
With around 1,900 seats that will be wider than those elsewhere in the stadium, the Barwell Stand will also include an increased hospitality suite seating up to 270 people, 12 executive boxes and a ground floor members’ bar approximately 50 percent bigger than the current bar.
There will also be improved disabled facilities with viewing positions on three levels, and the war memorial will be moved into a new location within the stadium grounds.
Season Tickets in the Barwell Stand for 2015/16 are now on general sale, and already over a quarter of the available seats have been booked by supporters eager to be a part of this exciting new stage in the 135-year history of rugby at Franklin’s Gardens. For full prices and booking information visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/seasontickets.