Waverley Park (formerly VFL Park and then AFL Park) was an often controversial 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 1990's it became the home ground of both the Hawthorn Football Club and St Kilda Football Club but was later replaced by Telstra Dome. Its total capacity was 78,000.
Waverley Park (then VFL Park) was first conceived in 1959 when delegates from the 12 VFL Clubs requested the VFL 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 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 (or Monash) freeway, the area would become the demographic centre of Melbourne.
The original plans were for a stadium catering for up to 160,000 patrons, which would have made it one of the biggest, if not the biggest, stadium of its time. However, the second stage of construction was never completed and the capacity was set at just over 78,000 patrons.
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 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. However, the stand 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. This said, because the size of the ground and the fact that the playing surface was levelled at a depth of 10 metres, this was not such a hassle. 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.
Waverley Park held many special events in its 30 year life that were not related to Australian rules football. These included:
- CONCERTS: KISS, ABBA, U2, Rod Stewart
- CRICKET: World Series Cricket
- INTERNATIONAL RULES: Matches between Australia and Ireland
- BASEBALL: Home of the Waverley Reds
- The 1991 AFL Grand Final
Records for Waverley Park
In its life, 732 AFL/VFL matches were played at Waverley Park, 70 of which were finals, and 1 grand final in 1991.
- HIGHEST SCORE: Fitzroy: 36.22(238) v Melbourne Football Club: 6.12 (48) in round 17, 1979
- HIGHEST CROWD: 92,935, Queens Birthday 1981, Hawthorn v Collingwood
- MOST GOALS IN A GAME: Jason Dunstall, 17 goals, Round 7, 1992
The last AFL match was played at Waverley Park in 1999. The land was subsequently sold to housing developer Mirvac to assist the Australian Football League to finance the construction of its new home, the Telstra Dome. Anticipating complete demolition of the stands, the National Trust of Victoria moved quickly to nominate the members stand on the grounds that the stadium was the first major stadium purpose built for Australian Rules Football and hosted the 1991 AFL Grand Final. The heritage stand also features a mural of football legends by artist Harold Freedman. Successful lobbying saw Heritage Victoria grant legislative protection. The majority of the stadium has now been demolished and all that is left is the member stand. The members stand mural has been restored and surrounding parking lot is being replaced by suburban housing. The remaining stand is visible from the nearby Monash Freeway. The oval itself, and the remaining section of the K.G. Luke stand is to be redeveloped as a training base for the Hawthorn Football Club.