Wembley Stadium (cap. 90,000) has unveiled a new pitch technology which will allow the venue to be ready to host football fixtures after concerts around seven times faster than before.
The venue will now be ready to host a football fixture five days after a concert, while previously it may have taken up to five weeks, according to Wembley Stadium grounds manager Karl Standley.
The hybrid carpet ‘Lay and Play’ grass pitch was grown off site, on a turf farm hundreds of miles away from the stadium. Standley said it took more than three years of research and development to finalise the technology.
It has been used ahead of this Sunday’s FA Community Shield between Manchester City FC and Arsenal FC. Once it was ready, more than 720 rolls of the turf were put on several lorries and transported to the stadium, before it was laid out last week. At 10 metres long by 1.2 metres, the install took 60 hours to complete.
“Lay and Play is a game-changer for a multi-purpose venue like Wembley Stadium,” said Standley. “Growing it offsite means we can ultimately cut down the time required between concerts and football to let the pitch recover.
“The Wembley pitch is unique and has very certain requirements. It involves a specific blend of sun, water, nutrients and takes 14 weeks to get into perfect shape. Even the fertiliser plan is bespoke to our requirements.
“It is like one big chemistry experiment. We had to test every stage of the process including the grow time, any potential damage during transport and how it reacts when it comes into the stadium. It is a very precise procedure, and we monitor every stage closely.”
After this weekend the pitch will be used for the Rugby League Challenge Final before concerts and events including AEW Elite Wrestling at the stadium.
“The next step is to make the whole process sustainable with the old pitch going back into grassroots football.
“At present the old pitch goes off to a production site where the grass, sand and plastic is separated. The grass decomposes naturally, and the sand is sent back to us so it can be re-used or sent out for use on grassroot pitches.
“We are close to now finding a use for the plastic, whereby it can be melted down and used to produce equipment for sports teams. Eventually the whole process will be 100% sustainable.”
This summer Wembley Stadium hosted sell-out concerts attended by more than half a million people, with shows by artists such as Harry Styles, Def Leppard and Blur.