Following a nine year search, Pannal Sports Junior Football Club has secured an official home, with planning permission granted for facilities worth over £1.1 million.
A transformation of 13 acres of farmland on Leeds Road will create a base to be used not only by the club, but by the whole area - with chairman Nick Viles outlining plans for running tracks and a cricket pitch to welcome other sports clubs and community groups.
Plans for the ‘Pannal Community Park’, which include a pavilion and 10 pitches, have been overwhelmingly backed by parents and supporters of each of the club’s 22 teams.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary last year, Pannal Sports Junior Football Club has grown from having little over twenty players to 465, and this latest development aims to reduce their waiting list and continue to increase the number of young people playing sport.
Chairman Nick Viles said: “The most exciting thing is that it’s a home for the football club, we’ve been looking for one for nine years - but it's also the opportunity it offers to all the other sports clubs and community interest groups in the area.
“This is a huge investment, and because of the amount of the investment going in, it would be a shame if it was used just for football. It is part of the ethos of the club that we want to get as many people playing sport as possible.
“Our players are really excited, you can see the excitement on their faces. There is excitement running right through the club.”
Fundraising stretching across almost a decade has secured nearly £880,000 for the facilities, but a final push is needed for the remainder.
Mr Viles said: “It is a mixed feeling, it is fantastic that we now have an official home, but there is still lots of work to do, and significant amounts of money to raise.”
A 30 year lease has been granted by Harrogate Borough Council, and after years of being “nomadic” and relying on school sports facilities and the West Park Stray, Mr Viles said this will make all the difference in boosting the club’s identity.
He said: “We have been nomadic going all over, but this gives us a home. The club has a great sense of community and belonging, with so many people giving up their time to help. It is not about producing the next superstars of the future, we just want to give children the chance to enjoy sport and build friendships.”
Coach of the under 10’s, Mike Whorley, is excited about the potential the new facilities have to improve football.
He said: “This will completely transform the club, one of the difficulties as a club is that we have had no actual base, and never had a home. We have led quite a nomadic existence.
“Having this help will improve our football as well, with great new facilities and pitches.”
Leading the project, Mark Taylor said: “There is still a lot of work to do before we can start on site, however, we are getting invaluable assistance and guidance from the Football Foundation. They not only provided expert advice on all aspects of the scheme, but have also ensured that the facilities will meet the quality standards of the Football Association.
"We have made every effort to make this a low impact and sustainable scheme and there is a great opportunity to have a positive effect on the local environment. We would like to hear from anyone who could assist with this."