Victoria Park, Melbourne
|Old Girl, VP, Vic Park|
Victoria Park from the air in 2007
|Former names||Dight's Paddock
Jock McHale Stadium
|Owner||City of Yarra|
|Operator||City of Yarra|
|Construction cost||£600|
|Architect||William Pitt|
|Collingwood Magpies (VFL/AFL) (1892–1999)
Fitzroy Lions (VFL) (1985-86)
Collingwood Magpies (VFL) (2010- )
Fitzroy Stars Football Club (NFL) (2010- )
Collingwood Warriors (1996-1997)
Victoria Park stadium is historically notable as a former Victorian Football League (now Australian Football League) venue between 1892 and 1999 and headquarters of the Collingwood Football Club for 107 years until 2005. It was also a temporary home ground for the Fitzroy Football Club for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. The ground is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and is of state heritage significance.
At its peak, Victoria Park was the third largest of the suburban VFL stadiums after the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Princes Park. However it was abandoned in 1999 due to its facilities not meeting the requirements of the AFL, and was to be demolished in 2000, but this was prevented by heritage status. A major redevelopment was launched in 2010 and the revitalised ground was opened in December 2011.
Collingwood and Victoria Park
The first game at Victoria Park was witnessed by an estimated 16,000 spectators and although Collingwood lost, it signaled the amazing popularity and drawing power of the Collingwood Football Club and Victoria Park.
The first major stand was completed midway through the 1892 season and it was not long before the club was back at the town hall asking the council to fund the construction of further facilities to accommodate the enormous following the club generated. In 1900 the Ladies Stand was constructed and in 1909 architect Thomas Watt designed the Member's Stand. The Ladies Stand on the grounds north side, along Abbott Street, was pulled down in 1929 to make way for the Jack Ryder Stand. This grandstand would provide state of the art facilities for players of both the Collingwood Football and Cricket Clubs and also seated approximately 3,000 supporters. The Ryder Stand was designed by architects Peck and Kemter. The steel-framed concrete stand with cantilevered roof was named after cricketer Jack Ryder.
By the end of the 1929 season Collingwood had completed the third premiership of the record breaking four in a row. The team was perceived to be invincible at Victoria Park and all rival clubs dreaded traveling there. This was in stark contrast to the prevailing economic conditions as the suburb was one the hardest hit by the Great Depression. For many in the area, to see the Magpies win at Victoria Park was the only relief from melancholy of daily life on the unemployment queue; the football club offered sustenance workers free entry to games during this period.
Victoria Park had grown to be more than just a sporting arena and was now a beacon of hope in a very bleak world.
In 1953 Collingwood won its first football premiership since 1936. With this success as a springboard, Collingwood secretary, Gordon Carlyon, started negotiations with the Collingwood council to provide for further improvements to the ground. The maximum seven year leases granted by local governments did not give the football club enough security of tenure to proceed with the grand plans that were being laid down. Carlyon was unsuccessful on several approaches to council until a technicality was found in the Local Council's Act. Clause 237 allowed Collingwood to take a long term lease over the ground provided the Club agreed to provide for major improvements to the site. Carlyon first approached the council in 1955, but they voted 14 to 1 against the proposal. The following year Carlyon sharpened his approach and took a new even better plan to the council and once again the council voted 8 to 7 against. Carlyon asked one of the dissenting councilors why he voted against the proposal and was surprised to discover that seven of the eight councilors were concerned that they would lose their free entry to Collingwood home games if the football club took control of the ground. Within weeks Carlyon returned to the Council with the very same proposal and a handful of Social Club memberships which turned the vote 14 to 1 in favour and Collingwood was now setup with control of its own home ground under 1996.
The social club, now known as the Bob Rose Stand, was the first to be completed. It was opened in 1959 by the state governor, Sir Dallas Brooks. The next stand to go up was the R.T. Rush stand in 1966, named after former player and club administrator Bob Rush. This allowed fans to have a significantly better view than the old open concrete terrace and hill. The facilities at Victoria Park now rivaled that of the MCG. The old Member’s Stand was pulled down to make way for the Sherrin stand in 1969. Only two thirds were completed and the final third was finished in 1978.
Right up to the late 1980s work continued to upgrade and modernize the facilities at the ground and the plans were laid down to create further covered seated areas for patrons as pressure was placed on the club by the new nationally-based competition to abandon the ground and relocate to the MCG. Local residents objected to the new plans. The club secured approval from the council, but after the election that followed the new councilors retracted that support and would not allow the club to continue work on the development of the site.
Starting in the late 1980s, Collingwood started moving some of their home games to VFL Park and the MCG. The move was a success financially for the club as it unlocked better exposure to the public as these venues had light towers enabling games to be played at night to boost television audiences and attendances. Beginning in 1994, Collingwood started moving their games to the MCG by playing all but three matches at the venue, and in 1997 only two games were being played at Victoria Park. In 1996 the cricket club moved away from the ground after a 100-year association with it. In 1999 the last match at Victoria Park was played against the Brisbane Lions; Collingwood lost by 42 points and finished on the bottom of the ladder for just the second time in their history. The last VFL match of the era was played the following year in 2000 when Collingwood lost to Williamstown.
Following the move to the MCG, Collingwood has seen an increased number of spectators see their games, thanks to the much larger capacity of the stadium. Collingwood used Victoria Park for their training sessions leading into the 2002 and 2003 AFL Grand Final matches. The ground was also used for some of the pre-season matches prior to the 2004 AFL season. The ground is still considered to be the club's spiritual home. Collingwood moved its training facilities from Victoria Park to the purpose built Westpac Centre, Melbourne (formally Lexus Centre) at the Olympic Park Complex in 2004.
Plans for the ground to be demolished following Collingwood's move away from the ground have become drawn out over a number of years because the ground is protected under the Victorian Heritage Register because of its cultural heritage significance at state level. Plans for demolition and reconstruction on the site have said that the oval will remain even if the stands do not.
Victoria Park redevelopment
In May 2010, Yarra City Council announced a $7.2 million upgrade of Victoria Park, to transform the park into a major community recreation space. At least $7.2 million was spent on the redevelopment, including $5.0 million contributed by the Australian Football League and the Collingwood Football Club, while the Australian Government contributed $3.5 million.
The redevelopment works included:
- Creation of two public plazas – one at the entry of Bath and Turner streets and the other at Turner and Lulie streets. This landscaping will include the planting of trees and the installation of new seating and public barbecues
- Refurbishment of the external areas of the Sherrin, Ryder and Bob Rose stands
- Removal of 40 metres of the red brick wall along Lulie Street (from the corner of Turner Street to the south end of the Sherrin Stand)
- Reducing the walls along Turner Street to 600 millimetres at the footpath (with new walls tiering up to meet the internal terracing)
- Construction of a replica ticket box, and refurbishment of an existing ticket box
- Creation of public artworks which will celebrate the park's special history
- Installation of a disability compliant ramp on the eastern end of the Ryder stand, to help provide access into the ground for people with disabilities
- Construction of a walking path around the outside of the oval, and replacement of the boundary fence around the oval.
The works were completed in 2011 and the revitalised ground was opened at a community event on 4 December 2011.
The interior of Victoria Park is shaped in an oval, almost a circle, to fit with the boundaries of the playing field. Whist there were no large display devices set up at the ground during its existence, one was set up via crane for the final game.
The ground is made up of several stands:
- Bob Rose Stand. Opened in 1959 as the S A Coventry pavilion after Club champion and then President Syd Coventry, the stand has undergone several internal and external changes to eventually become the Bob Rose Stand. This made up Collingwood's social club and administration base until 2004. Most of the spectator room was standing room only on concrete with some seats inside the social club on the second floor. Administration was on the third floor, above the social club.
- R.T. Rush Stand. This stand made up most of one of the wings and was directly opposite the Bob Rose Stand. This stand was demolished in 2011.
- Sherrin Stand. This area was reserved mostly for the Collingwood cheer squad and other Collingwood members. It was located behind the goals and was on the right hand side to the Bob Rose Stand. The stand was completely under cover.
- Ryder Stand. This was made up of wooden seating. It was located on the left hand side of the Bob Rose Stand and opposite the R.T. Rush Stand. This stand was completely under cover.
Part of the ground did not have a stand in place, just grass. This was for standing room. No lighting for the playing field was built and therefore the venue did not host night games once they were introduced. Some lights were installed for darker day games to support the player's vision. Entry into the ground was by manned turnstile and could be made from all stands.
The ground is located about 4 km to the northeast of the Melbourne Central Business District. The ground had limited parking space on match days which has now been locked now that the ground is unused. The ground has its own railway station about 200 metres from the ground, situated on the Hurstbridge and South Morang lines.
- "Victoria Park". austadiums.com. Austadiums. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- Victoria Park Conservation Management Plan
- LULIE STREET ABBOTSFORD, Yarra City (VICTORIA PARK), Victorian Heritage Database
- Victoria Park Listed, heritage and conservation - Forum - By peter, Mar 28th 2006, Butterpaper
- Pies return to Victoria Park, 22 July 2009, by Suzanne Robson, Melbourne Leader
- "Victoria Park". City of Yarra. Retrieved 29 July 2013.