Waverley Park is a former 72,000-seat AFL stadium located in the outer-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Waverley hosted its final official AFL game in 1999 and in 2002, work begun to transform the site into one of Australia's largest housing estates. The oval itself and a large section of the Sir Kenneth Luke Stand has been retained as the centrepiece of the development and now serves as the training and administrative base of the Hawthorn Football Club.
Waverley Park was built by the Victorian Football League (now the AFL) in 1970 at a cost of $3 million. The ground was later further developed, however it was never fully-completed how the original plans proposed - a 140,000 all-seater stadium with the main grandstand circling the entire ground.
The ground was built by the VFL to become the new ground of the sport, however this never fully eventuated with the annual Grand Final remaining at the MCG. Other sports played at Waverley included World Series Cricket and Baseball. It hosted the VFL game of the week and in the 1990's, Hawthorn Football Club became the first club to call the venue home, St.Kilda Football Club followed soon after. The biggest game Waverley hosted was the 1991 Grand Final between Hawthorn and West Coast Eagles, moved from the MCG due to the construction of the Great Southern Stand.
A downfall of Waverley Park was its location. While it's actually located near the geographic centre of Melbourne and serviced by a major freeway, it's a long way from the CBD and lacks public transport. The ground did however have a huge car park, although it was prone to congestion following the game. A benefit of the ground was its seating for 72,000 patrons, however its negatives outweighed its positives: lack of undercover seating, poor spectator facilities, minimal corporate facilities, a two-coloured video screen and the fact it was located in a rain belt meaning cold and often wet weather.
The construction of the state-of-the-art 55,000-seat Docklands Stadium signalled the end of Waverley Park. The last AFL premiership season game was played at Waverley Park in Round 22, 1999 between Hawthorn and Sydney in front of a sell-out crowd of 72,130. AFL pre-season and VFL games were held at the venue the following year. The last ever game played at the venue was the 2000 Victorian Football League Grand Final.
Maintenance at the ground became non-existent and a large amount of vandalism took place with smashed windows, once-exclusive super boxes trashed, walls sprayed with graffiti and the ground surface which was once the best in the league was reduced to a field of weeds.
Plans by the stadium's owner, the Australian Football League, to sell the venue were met with strong criticism. Concepts included converting it into a theme park, turning it into housing, and the slight possibility remained in keeping it as an AFL ground. The AFL shortly after released a statement declaring AFL Football would no longer be played at the ground. From this point on, Waverley Park's days as a professional sporting venue seemed doomed.
Waverley was sold by the AFL in December 2001, to property group Mirvac who proposed to turn the 80-hectare site into a $700 million fully integrated residential community of national significance. The site now includes some 1400 dwellings and is home to 3500 people.
Demolition work commenced in December 2002 and Hawthorn Football Club's new headquarters, currently known as the Ricoh Centre, was completed in March 2006. Eight bays of the Sir Kenneth Luke Stand have been retained and turned into a training and administrative facility for the Hawks as well as a community facility. The facility, which incorporates an MCG-dimension oval (the size of the playing arena has been reduced from the original size), includes a 25m heated indoor pool plus four refrigerated ice tanks, gymnasium with 60m running track and a warm-up area with projection and screen facilities to simulate match-day conditions. The grandstand has seating for around 200 patrons with plenty of standing room in front of the stand as well as around the ground. The seating in the top level of the grandstand has also been retained.
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