Harrogate Town A.F.C.



Project summary

  • Sports facility design
  • Sports construction
  • Sports surface improvement

As Harrogate Town went unbeaten in their first 11 matches of the 2018/19 season, the excitement of a potential long-awaited promotion to League 2 was met with a realisation that there’d be some big changes needed at the club to conform to EFL rules should they achieve it – one of which being that their synthetic home pitch would need to be replaced with a natural turf pitch. As Town marched through their season picking up more points and retaining a strong league position, the club engaged STRI to design a turf pitch that could be installed in the very small window of opportunity after the season ended in May and before the next season began in August. This window of time was made even shorter by the fact that Harrogate finished 6th, meaning that they qualified for the play-offs and that any promotion would be after 3 extra matches. As the play-offs began, STRI and Carrick Sports Construction, who Harrogate Town had chosen to carry out construction of the site, placed staff and machinery on standby to begin immediately. Unfortunately, Harrogate crashed out of the play-offs after a 3-1 defeat at AFC Fylde.

The following season, Harrogate managed to better the previous year’s outcome, securing promotion to League 2 at Wembley Stadium for the first time in the club’s 100-year history. The play-off final was played on Sunday 2nd August 2020 and construction began on Tuesday 4th August 2020, in an even shorter window than the one presented to us the previous year due to the regular season being suspended after the outbreak of COVID-19.


The club had previously enjoyed a very successful business model with the synthetic surface at the nucleus of it, due to decreased wear and tear and damage of the surface compared to a natural turf pitch. The club allowed their first team to train and play on the pitch as well as giving access to their ladies’ team and academy teams. This meant that the club saved costs on sourcing multiple facilities for use at all levels; it was also a successful revenue stream due to the ability to hire it out to the public without fear of the condition of the pitch being spoiled.

Where sowing usually occurs in June and they have enough time to develop a sufficiently mature turf to be played on in August or September, the natural cycle of grass meant that the rate of growth was declining due to the time of year. The further reduced window of time that we had due to the COVID-19 pandemic and need for the turf to grow and develop meant that STRI and Carrick had to follow an incredibly unusual procedure. Whilst we maximised the time we had by being on call immediately in the event of promotion, it still only left us approximately one month before the beginning of the season. As a result, Carrick Sports saved 7-10 days by not removing the synthetic pitch and its construction profile, as would be the usual method, but instead build on top of the existing pitch. The pitch was built up from the synthetic surface with a layer of lower rootzone sand, upper rootzone, an expanded irrigation system, and then seeded.

A further challenge present during the project was the location of the site; the stadium is on Wetherby Road, one of the busiest roads in North Yorkshire. This meant access to the stadium was incredibly difficult given the size of the vehicles that were carrying materials and machinery, and the incredibly narrow entrance to the site meant there was no room for them to turn once access was obtained. Consequently, staff had to stop traffic on Wetherby Road to allow the wagons to reverse into the site.


The design being completed and agreed upon with the client the year prior meant that we had an extra year to amend for any change in requirements following further liaison with the client. It also allowed ample time for the Carrick Sports and STRI staff to familiarise themselves with the design to an even more thorough level than usual, reducing the risks of delays and increasing the level of efficiency and time management. Additionally, a team was on standby in the event of promotion with materials provisionally ordered.

Because the synthetic turf was constructed on a free-draining granular stone sub-base, strips were cut out of the surface and filled with gravel prior to rootzone to mitigate any potential future drainage issues in the event of heavy weather. This was to ensure that we had a connection between the surface and a very porous stone sub-base.

Fortunately, the owner of Harrogate Town managed to allow more time for the installation by agreeing a temporary groundshare with Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium for the beginning of the season. This meant the pitch could be seeded on 31st August and allowed a reasonable time to grow before the first home match at the Wetherby Road Stadium was held on 17th October 2020.

When the players see that green, perfect grass it lifts them because they know we can play football on it.

Simon Weaver, Harrogate Town First Team Manager


  • A world-class pitch was delivered for Harrogate Town for their first ever Football League fixture in their home stadium. “I thought the pitch played really well. It was nice and firm. We’re confident it will be a really good playing surface for us and no matter what, we’ll play our way. When the players see that green, perfect grass it lifts them because they know we can play football on it” said Simon Weaver, Harrogate Town First Team Manager, after their first fixture on the new pitch.
  • Construction was completed within schedule. The project benefitted from synergy between Carrick Sports Construction and STRI thanks to a long-standing successful relationship and smooth communication channels between them.
  • The fact that the existing pitch and construction pile wasn’t removed meant this was a more sustainable design and build than it otherwise would have been, since there was 5,000 tonnes of sub-base material plus the synthetic turf carpet and infill that would have ended up in landfill. In addition, we managed to use the old ring main for the irrigation system, meaning a further level of sustainability.

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