Waverley Park

Waverley Park

stadium_name = Waverley Park
nickname = "VFL Park"

location = Mulgrave, Melbourne
broke_ground = 1959
opened = 1970
closed = 1999
demolished = 2001
owner = Mirvac
operator = Hawthorn Football Club
surface = Grass
construction_cost = Unknown
architect = Various
former_names = VFL Park
AFL Park
tenants = Current:
Hawthorn Hawks, AFL (training and administration only)
Fitzroy Lions, AFL
St Kilda Saints, AFL
Waverley Reds, ABL
seating_capacity = 2000 (formerly 78,000)

Waverley Park (formerly VFL Park and then AFL Park) was an Australian rules football stadium in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. For most of its history, its purpose was as a neutral venue and used by all Victorian based Victorian Football League/Australian Football League clubs. However, during the 1990s it became the home ground of both the Hawthorn and St Kilda football clubs. It was later replaced by the Telstra Dome.

The main grandstand and oval are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The beginning

Waverley Park (then VFL Park) was first conceived in 1959 when delegates from the 12 VFL Clubs requested the League to find land that was suitable for the building of a new stadium. In September 1962, the VFL had secured a 212 acre (860,000 m²) block of grazing and market garden land at Mulgrave. This area was chosen because it was believed that with the effects of urban sprawl, and the proposed building of the South-Eastern (later called Monash) freeway, the area would become the demographic centre of Melbourne. The VFL reportedly lobbied the state government to construct a train connection to the stadium, but as the stadium was abandoned it never happened.

The original plans were for a stadium catering for up to 157,000 patrons, which would have made it one of the biggest stadiums in the world. To accommodate the large number of patrons, the Members Stand was to be extended around the whole ground. However, in 1982/1983, when the extensions were due to commence, the Government of Victoria refused to approve the plans for the upgrade because the upgrade would have threatened the Melbourne Cricket Ground's right to host the AFL Grand Final. Hence, no further development ever occurred and the capacity was set at just over 78,000 patrons.

The playing surface of 200 metres long and 160 metres wide would be the biggest in the League. This caused some controversy and the boundary lines were repainted and goals were relocated to make the playing area more similar to other AFL grounds.


Under the direction of Architect Reginald E Padey, work was started at the site on January 5, 1966 when the VFL President Sir Kenneth Luke turned the first sod. On construction of the stadium, a total of 378,000 cubic yards (289,000 m³) of topsoil was excavated and the surface of the oval was lowered to a depth of ten metres from the surrounding area. The soil was used to form the banks for some sections of the stadium.

The foundations for the K.G. Luke stand were laid in 1969 and more than 20 km of solid concrete terracing was laid around the ground.

Finally, on April 18, 1970, Fitzroy and Geelong played the first game at Waverley Park, to a crowd of 25,887. However, the stadium was far from completed. In fact, the only section of the actual grandstand that was built was the first level of the K.G. Luke stand. The rest of the stadium had only been completed on the ground level.

The Public Reserve Stands encircling the rest of the stadium were finished at a cost of $4.5 million in 1974 and the car parking was extended to fit a total of 25,000 cars. Lighting was added in May 1977 at a cost of $1.2 million for the first of 1977 night series televised matches.

In 1982 a monochrome video matrix scoreboard was in operation at Waverley Park for the first time in VFL history, displaying instant replay highlights. In 1984 the arena was re-turfed and the drainage system upgraded, and two years later a mosaic mural perpetuating many great names of VFL Football was installed on the grandstand facade above the members' entrance. During the 1988 season automatic turnstiles were introduced at the members' entrance.

Memorable events

*The first ever final played at the ground was also the first ever elimination final, played between St. Kilda and Essendon in 1972.
*During the 1973 season, 42,610 attended the first interstate match at the ground (between Victoria and Western Australia) and a record 60,072 attended the second semi-final between Carlton and Collingwood.
* Essendon and Carlton contested a once-off match on Anzac Day in 1975 (which Essendon won) in front of a crowd of 77,770. [cite web | url = http://www.essendonfc.com.au/club/history.asp | title = Club History | work = Essendon FC | accessdate = 2007-05-10 ] .
* In 1977 Fitzroy played North Melbourne in the first night match at the stadium in the Amco-Herald Cup (now the NAB Cup).
*The record attendance was 92,935, who watched Collingwood versus Hawthorn in 1981.
*In 1987 Fitzroy played North Melbourne in the first night match at the stadium for premiership points in the major competition. A total of 183,383 people watched the three finals games at VFL Park and the preliminary final attendance of 71,298 was the largest since 1984. The game was between Melbourne and Hawthorn and it has been described as the most epic played at VFL Park, with Hawthorn winning from a goal kicked after the siren.
*In 1989 a match was played for premiership points on a Sunday at VFL Park for the first time.
*The ground hosted its first and only AFL Grand Final in 1991, which was contested by Hawthorn and the West Coast Eagles because the Melbourne Cricket Ground was at the time undergoing the construction of the Great Southern Stand. Hawthorn defeated West Coast by 53 points in front of a crowd of 75,230.
*In 1996 an unexpected pitch invasion occurred when the lights went out at the stadium in a night game between Essendon and St Kilda, during the third quarter [http://home.vicnet.net.au/~brad/96/round10.htm] . After declaring the match finished for the evening, the AFL commission held an emergency meeting to decide what should happen, as there was no provision in the official rules for an event like this. They decided to continue the match three days later. Essendon kept their winning position comfortably, starting with a 20-point lead and winning with a 22-point margin. Controversially, the Bombers made five changes to their line-up between the two parts of the match. One of those players, Essendon star James Hird, managed to pick up match votes in some of the media awards. Prior to the match, St. Kilda coach Stan Alves complained about the situation and stated that his team is "not going to go kamikaze" and risk an injury when they don't have much chance of winning. The AFL subsequently decided on a set of rules to be applied if an incident like this arises again.
*The last official AFL game was played in 1999 between Hawthorn and Sydney in front of a sell-out crowd of 72,130.
*In 2000, AFL pre-season cup matches were played at the venue, and Victorian Football League games also took place there, including finals and the Grand Final. Melbourne's Eastern Football League also played division 1 and division 2 grand finals at the venue at the conclusion of the 2000 season. The 2000 VFL Grand Final was the last ever game of football played at the venue.

Football records

In its life, 732 AFL/VFL matches were played at Waverley Park, 70 of which were finals and one Grand Final.

*HIGHEST SCORE: Fitzroy: 36.22(238) v Melbourne: 6.12 (48) in round 17, 1979
*LARGEST CROWD: 92,935, Queen's Birthday 1981, Hawthorn v Collingwood
*MOST GOALS IN A GAME: Jason Dunstall, 17 goals, Round 7, 1992

pecial events

Waverley Park hosted many special events other than Australian rules football. These included:

*Rock concerts: Rod Stewart (1979), KISS (1980), David Bowie (1983), U2 (1998).
*Cricket: World Series Cricket games between 1977 and 1979.
*International Rules Football: Matches between Australia and Ireland.
*Baseball: Home of the Waverley Reds from 1989 until 1994.


The decision to close the venue was made by the AFL for a number of reasons. While it was serviced by a major freeway, Waverley Park was a long way from the Melbourne CBD, and lacked sufficient public transport and parking. As it aged, its limitations also became increasingly apparent. These limitations included its lack of undercover seating, poor spectator and corporate facilities, and a two-coloured video screen. The ground itself was very large and spectators felt distant from the game. Moreover, Waverley was located in a rain belt, bringing cold and often wet weather, thus earning the stadium the unflattering nickname "Arctic park." Fact|date=October 2007 In December 2001 the land was sold to housing developer Mirvac to assist the Australian Football League to finance the construction of its new home, the Telstra Dome.

While often seen as something of a failure, Waverley Park actually served an important purpose for the VFL/AFL, providing a critical bargaining chip in negotiations with the Melbourne Cricket Club over MCG access. The existence of Waverley as a viable alternative venue for the Grand Final and other events presumably led to a considerably more favourable bargaining position for the AFL.

Current status

Following its cessation as a venue for league football, the stadium fell into a state of disrepair. Anticipating complete demolition, the National Trust of Victoria moved quickly to nominate the members stand for heritage listing on the basis that the stadium was the first major stadium purpose built for Australian rules football, that it hosted the 1991 AFL Grand Final and that the members (or K.G. Luke) stand features a mural of football legends by artist Harold Freedman.

Successful lobbying saw Heritage Victoria grant legislative protection to the site, and beginning in December 2002 the entire stadium was demolished except for the members stand and members stand mural. The surrounding parking lot has been replaced by suburban housing, including 1400 new dwellings for 3500 people. The members stand is visible from the nearby Monash Freeway.

The oval itself and the remaining section of the members stand have been redeveloped into a state-of-the-art training and administrative facility for the Hawthorn Football Club and the community. The facility incorporates an MCG-dimension oval (the size of the playing arena having been reduced from its original size), includes a 25 metre heated indoor swimming pool, four refrigerated ice tanks, a gymnasium with a 60 metre running track and a warm-up area with projection and screen facilities to simulate match-day conditions. The grandstand has seating for around 2000 patrons, with seating in the top level of the grandstand having been retained.


External links

* [http://www.waverleypark.com.au/ Waverley Park Housing Estate Official Website]
* [http://soccer.ballparks.com/Australia/Waverley/index.htm Ballparks.com]


* Greg Hobbs, "A Restless Birth," "AFL Football Record", Vol 80, No 28, September 28, 1991, pp. 10-11.

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