Waverly Park

Waverly Park

Photo courtesy Ben Davies, thanks Ben

  The Facility  
Date Built 1970
Melbourne Cricket Club
(Melbourne Cricket Club)
Capacity 77,000
Surface Grass
Cost of Construction Unknown
  Other Facts  
Melbourne, Australia
Phone Number  
Tenants Various
Population 5,000,000

Ben Davies wrote: For many years the 'second' stadium of the city. Waverley Park is fully owned by the Australian Football League and first opened in 1970. The capacity is 77,000, with the record attendance being 92,935 who saw Collingwood versus Hawthorn in 1981. For many years, the League had planned to make 'it's' ground the largest and most important in Melbourne and thereby supplant the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which it effectively 'leases' for 6 months a year from its owners, the Melbourne Cricket Club. The plan was to extend the Member's Stand at the right of the picture around the whole of the ground, for a capacity of around 150,000, and for a railway to be built to the ground, which is in an isolated outer suburb (Waverley). However, in 1982-83 when the extensiions were due to commence, the pro-MCG state Government refused to grant planning permission for the move and threatened to legislate to prevent the Grand Final ever being moved from the MCG.

The grand plan was thus thwarted and since that time, there has been no question that Waverley plays 'second-fiddle' to the larger, better-equiped and centrally located MCG. The playing surface is the largest in Australia, with the distance between the fences at either end being some 200m and maximum width 160m! The ground was often criticised by players and fans for simply being too big and a common joke was that on a clear day it was possible to see play on the opposite wing. Also criticised was the open and low-raked nature of the stands, which were unduly exposed to weather and thought to lack atmosphere. The ground was also built in a supposed 'rain belt' and its reputation for attracting bad weather earned it the nickname 'Arctic Park'. In addition to football, it also hosted international cricket matches for several years in the late 1970s, when the breakaway World Series Cricket circuit was denied use of the 'official' cricket grounds. It's biggest moment (not counting the huge KISS concert in 1979) came in 1991 when it played host to its first and only AFL Grand Final whilst the MCG underwent a major renovation.

Waverly Park
The ground hosted its last regular season AFL match in September 1999 and is due to be sold by the AFL (in all likelihood to be demolished for a housing estate) and replaced by the new Colonial Stadium in the Melbourne Docklands. Colonial Stadium is worth around A$425 million and is being developed under a 'BOOT' financing scheme, in which the AFL, for an initial investment of $30 million, will gain full equity after 25 years. Proceeds from the sale of Waverley (estimated value $40-80 million) are necessary to fund the stake in Colonial.

The situation in Melbourne mirrors that which seems to be the case in a lot of US cities, in which teams 'trade-in' larger and older venues out in the 'burbs for newer, more advanced, but smaller capacity venues in the inner city. A similar trend, only just beginning to catch on in Australia, is to restrict a stadium's capacity so that as many events as possible will be 'sell-outs', thus providing the opportunity for live TV coverage and the pre-selling of all tickets at inflated prices. Whilst Colonial Stadium would seem to have everything that Waverley was criticised for lacking, (location, shelter, compactness, up-to-date facilities) the one advantage Waverley had was that, big finals matches aside, no tickets were ever pre-sold, which allowed anyone to turn up on the day and buy tickets which were cheaper than any other AFL ground and be guaranteed a seat 99% of the time. Colonial will be the first time the Melbourne sporting public ventures into the 'American' mode of stadium management and ticket selling, which constitutes a significant cultural shift. If the level of public discontent and sudden outbreak of sentimental feeling for the doomed Waverley Park is any indication, they are less than delighted with this development.


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Last Updated 3/31/00

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