Kenilworth Road is easy to miss when walking along Dunstable Road, a hub of shops and restaurants to the west of Luton’s town centre. It shows itself at the top of the adjoining streets but is soon hidden again by the houses that man-mark three of its four sides.
Luton Town’s home is small enough to be concealed by houses, yet with just one more Luton win, in the Championship play-off final against Coventry City at Wembley this weekend, it will be staging Premier League football.
Manager Rob Edwards called that reality “surreal” after Kenilworth Road had rocked throughout the semi-final win over Sunderland last Tuesday and he was not wrong. A stadium first opened in 1905, with a capacity currently capped at just over 10,000, might end up hosting some of the biggest names in European football when a new season begins in August. Some of them will have never seen the like.
Kenilworth Road would become the Premier League’s smallest-ever ground and, importantly, will also require a rapid summer upgrade if the cards fall in favour of Luton.
Somewhere between £8million and £10million ($10million to $12.4million) will need to be spent sprucing up the ground, with revamped press facilities, new broadcast units and floodlights all demanded by the Premier League.
The side currently made up entirely of 28 executive boxes, formerly the Bobbers Stand until 1986, has been earmarked for the greatest renovation and will effectively be rebuilt inside three hectic months.
The former Bobbers Stand (Photo: Shaun Botterill via Getty Images)
None of this will happen if the play-off final ends in defeat to Coventry. It is hoped a new, purpose-built home will be ready ahead of the 2026-27 season and there is little sense in investing in a ground whose days are numbered.
Premier League football, though, would provide Kenilworth Road with a romantic swansong. Not since Luton’s relegation in the spring of 1992, a few months before the Premier League began, has it hosted top-flight football and little has changed at the ground in that time; there have been cosmetic alterations but the old charm remains.
So, too, does the entrance to the Oak Road Stand (main picture), with its turnstiles built into a row of terraced houses, then to a walkway that leads fans up metal steps and over residents’ back gardens. Or the plastic benches at the foot of the Main Stand, with its wooden-floored upper tier. Or the Eric Morecambe Suite, a hospitality lounge named after the entertainer and the club’s most famous fan.
The entrance to the Eric Morecambe Suite (Photo: Philip Buckingham)
It is a warren of tight corridors and low ceilings. Steel girders typically obstruct views and, as one mindless supporter proved with a shove on Sunderland’s on-loan winger Amad Diallo last week, those in the front row can reach out and touch players.
The shortcomings of Kenilworth Road, however, also hold its appeal.
“I think it’ll be an asset to the Premier League,” says Luton’s chief executive Gary Sweet. “This is proper, real life, real football. It’s history and tradition happening right here. This isn’t a sterile bowl of a stadium. This is lively, this is emotion, it’s white knuckles, tears and joy. If you can’t embrace it, you don’t love football.
“It annoys and makes me giggle at the same time when you get all this social media content about the entrance to the away end, going through gardens and all that. It’s been like that since World War Two. Or even before. Why is it being raised now? Just because we might be going into the Premier League.
“Haaland’s not going to walk through that entrance. He is going to walk through the other sh*t entrance we’ve got. There is no great entrance here. Embrace it. And we will. People might take the mickey but it doesn’t bother us. We’ve got thick skins here and, actually, it shows a little bit of fear.”
A banner at Kenilworth Road (Photo: Philip Buckingham)
Luton have been preparing for the renovation work that would need to begin within days of winning at Wembley. A provisional plan was put in place last season before losing to Huddersfield Town in the play-off semi-final 12 months ago, with planning submissions handed over to the local council. There will be no time to waste.
“If anyone can (do it in time), we can,” says Sweet, who estimates the costs of the planning so far to be about £500,000.
What might yet end up being Kenilworth Road’s final Championship game, against Sunderland last week, was a demonstration of the challenges Luton could face this summer. The stands were bouncing but it was a venue that struggled to cope.
The 29 press box seats were all taken, with a further 13 journalists housed in an overflow section on the front row of the directors’ box. Three TV journalists could not even be given a seat such was the demand for the play-off semi-final second leg, with them instead asked to watch the action from the screens behind the Main Stand.
(Photo: Tony Marshall via Getty Images)
That will need to change. The Premier League has a raft of demands for accommodating media and the vast international interest, detailed in Rule K of their handbook.
At least 50 media seats need to be in place, as well as a media conference room capable of hosting up to 70 people. Luton’s post-match press conferences are currently held in the Nick Owen Lounge, a popular bar area used by supporters before games and at half-time.
Luton’s television gantry would also need improvements for broadcasting in the Premier League. At least 15 TV commentary points are required, on top of space for support staff. Another 15 radio commentary points are also necessary, along with seven pitchside presentation places. Provisions for VAR cameras, a system Kenilworth Road has never used, would be another requirement.
The strength of the floodlights will also require improvement. There are currently seven pylons to light up the pitch but lack the necessary lux and uniformity the Premier League asks for. These things have to be calculated. All signed off and certified.
(Photo: Alex Pantling via Getty Images)
“This is work we’ve got to undertake,” explains Sweet. “We’re not being told what to do, we’ve got to do it. We have no complaints about that. It’s going to cost £10million-ish. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it properly, so we will.”
He adds: “In all of this, we’re trying to see what we can use that is transferable to the new stadium. We hate waste. What’s the point in doing all this for three years.”
Regardless of the variety it might offer to the Premier League, Kenilworth Road’s days are numbered. At long last, a new home is close to being built for Luton.
The main stand at Kenilworth Road (Photo: Philip Buckingham)
The club has been giving thought to leaving Kenilworth Road for over half a century. A series of sites and designs have been proposed, including one in the 1990s with a retractable roof, yet a spade has not yet been planted.
The Power Court site, a former electricity substation situated in the centre of Luton, has been the preferred location for a new ground since 2015, with planning permission granted as far back as 2019. However, the 19,200-seat stadium, a capacity which will be able to be increased, remains locked at the planning phase.
Construction is yet to begin and gets no cheaper in the age of spiralling costs. Premier League football would provide enormous financial support. The budget for Luton’s new stadium is said to be approaching £100million.
“We expect to get a decision on that by the end of the year,” says Sweet. “The day we get a decision on that, within a few days, weeks, we’ll be starting work. Promotion may not be able to accelerate it because it’s moving at a very rapid pace anyway.”
Luton already have a waiting list of 6,000 supporters wanting season tickets and it has been said this week that as many as 60,000 fans would have bought tickets for Wembley on Saturday had space allowed it. The demand is there and so is the acceptance that Kenilworth Road cannot be part of Luton’s long-term future. They fully intend to cherish it while it’s still standing.
Additional reporting: Michael Bailey
(Top photo: Tony Marshall via Getty Images)
The Hatters beat Coventry City 6-5 on penalties at Wembley on Saturday to earn promotion to the Premier League for the first time. But the club's stadium at Kenilworth Road does not meet the league's requirements for broadcast specifications.What are the upgrades on Kenilworth Road? ›
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|Owner||Luton Borough Council|
|Operator||Luton Town F.C.|
|Field size||110 by 72 yards (100.6 m × 65.8 m)|
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Kenilworth Road - home of the Hatters since 1905
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Wembley, the United Kingdom
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- Coventry City.
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Upgrading people for free creates goodwill
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The first Lord Kenilworth was John Davenport Siddeley (1866-1953) famous for the Armstrong –Siddeley company, manufacturer of cars and aircraft, but he was only created Lord Kenilworth in 1937. The second option is that it was named after a building, namely Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire.Who built Kenilworth? ›
The first castle was established in the 1120s by the royal chamberlain, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built most of the Norman keep. In the early 13th century King John added an outer circuit of stone walls and a dam to hold back a great lake, so creating one of the most formidable fortresses in the kingdom.How big is Kenilworth? ›
At the 2021 Census, the population was 22,538. The town is home to the ruins of Kenilworth Castle and Kenilworth Abbey.When was Kenilworth Road built? ›
|Michigan Stadium||107,601||Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|Beaver Stadium||106,572||State College, Pennsylvania|
|Ohio Stadium||102,780||Columbus, Ohio|
|Kyle Field||102,733||College Station, Texas|
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At a Scotland v England match 17th April 1937 at Hampden Park, there was officially 149,415 spectators. Sources say that there were more, considering there were a lot of people in the stadium without tickets.What will happen to Luton Town? ›
"Luton needs something more than just a football ground just there." Plans to build a new home for Luton Town are in the pipeline with the aim for it to be ready by 2026.Why did Luton change to orange? ›
The club's founding year, 1885, was added in 2008. The badge was altered once more during the 2009–10 pre-season, with the red of the town crest being replaced with orange to better reflect the club colours.What's the biggest stadium in the US? ›
Biggest Capacity NFL Stadium
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Kenilworth Road - home of the Hatters since 1905
The Kenilworth Stadium, Kenilworth Road or The Kenny as it is affectionately known has been the home of Luton Town Football Club since 1905.
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EPL 2023: Luton Town's Kenilworth Road ground steeped in history.What is the smallest stadium in the Premier League? ›
|1||Kenilworth Road||Luton Town|
|3||Boundary Park||Oldham Athletic|
|4||County Ground||Swindon Town|
It is just one yard smaller than the vast expanses of the Stadium of Light, that Luton struggled to get to grips with at times in the second half when beaten 2-1 by the Black Cats in their first leg encounter.How hard is it to get tickets to a Premier League game? ›
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You can also use the text number text LFC to 64446 to report any discriminatory behaviour. Can my child who is 13 years old go to the game with his cousin who is 16? No. To enter the Stadium all children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult who is aged 18 years or older.