Victoria Park’s retro reno

In the final instalment of my nostalgic Collingwood-Victoria Park trilogy, I take a look at the Victoria Park redevelopment.

It’s ironic something that once united and defined Collingwood supporters has become a source of angst and division.  Especially at a time which could be considered the club’s high noon.

Funded by the Yarra City Council and the Australian Government, the $7.2m Victoria Park renovation completed in December last year has certainly won many plaudits.  Despite a combative past, the council and the football club sought to achieve a result satisfying rather different expectations and requirements.

Of course well before the last ‘social club free kick’ was paid, Victoria Park had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Quite simply, the club did not have the means or the will to wind back the effects of time on its weatherbeaten old structures.  And to do so for the sake of three or four games a year was not sustainable, particularly when bad investments had put the club on a financial precipice.  Whilst Vic Park never purported to the aesthetic charm of the Brunswick Street Oval, the ground belonging to supposedly the most famous club in Australia was barely safe for human habitation.  Embarrassing stuff.

After Collingwood left Victoria Park holis bolis in 2004 (a final act including the stripping and selling of social club and various other fixtures, signs and bric-a-brac), the ground’s decline hastened as the council mulled over the options.  Even conducting scratch matches and training became problematic.  What a waste.  And this was prime land within a few Trav Cloke roosts of the city.

Whilst Collingwood supporters in general had become used to the MCG and the allure of regular blockbuster games, a small but dedicated group lobbied the club and council to address the neglect.  There were valid fears Victoria Park would be sold off to private developers.  The Victoria Park Heritage Committee at least scored a few wins, Heritage Victoria protecting elements of the Park from what one member labelled ‘Yarra City’s destructive master plan’.

Yet the group remains embittered, particularly by the removal of the R T Rush Stand and the rusted out old scoreboard they believed was to be saved.

A sometimes nasty intraclub debate continues, mostly played out across the interweb.   It’s not unlike the hand wringing over Fitzroy, which like Victoria Park still exists, albeit in a minor key.   Romantic idealists v Pragmatic realists – I tend to  find myself barracking for both.

Though to be honest, given the almighty dollar rules most aspects of modern life, my opinion is what has transpired is as fair and satisfactory as one could reasonably hope.  Consider the 1882 edict;

Victoria Park is given to the City of Collingwood for the resort and recreation of the people of Collingwood and must never be sold to any individuals.” 

The VPHC may never be satisfied, but they should be proud of their part in ensuring a black and white past has been preserved in true life colour.  I certainly don’t begrudge the wider community being provided far better access to a much improved recreation facility.  I say ‘so what’ if people walk their dogs on the sacred turf.   It’s a small price to pay when I can take my boy to watch and learn about the Magpies at Victoria Park on a Saturday afternoon – a notion that would not have been entertained five years ago.  Yes, a rudimentary old grandstand that housed many great memories is gone, but it wasn’t there in 1965 either.

In context, other Melbourne based clubs face far more pressing concerns.  To my mind Victoria Park actually serves as a template for other unloved scenes of a much loved era of football and Melbourne culture, so eloquently recounted by Barry Dickens.

One that is for better or worse gone, but via respectful projects such as this, not forgotten.


Thousands of train commuters each day pass by the fantastic recreation of the old turnstiles on the corner of Turner and Lulie St.

 
Remains of today; what’s left of the R T Rush Stand and Anderson Hunt’s artistic  scoreboard replacement ‘The Final Siren’ atop ‘One Eyed Hill’. 

 
‘Strata of Memory’; the steps at the Turner & Bath St entry point document the history relating to the indiginous inhabitants of the land, the ground and Collingwood FC.  A credit for this little passage from GG182 might have been nice… or at least an invite to the opening day.

 
Fine food and education at Victoria Park!  Historical signposts document Victoria Park’s highlights and what friends and foes thought of the place; Even Barry Dickens might agree BBQ’s render Vic Park a more civilised proposition these days

 
Gone is the most infamous toilet but if you’re a Gent then a wall will do; If only we could pay like it was 1999!

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.

Comments

  1. Dave Nadel says:

    Jeff, thank you for posting the pictures of the restored Victoria Park. I don’t care how imaginative a piece of artwork it is, I would rather they had restored the old scoreboard than replaced it with a piece of artwork that has no historical context.

    You are right that by the 1990s Vic Park was a lost cause. If we had had a far-sighted Committee in the seventies they could have renovated the ground and surrounds while building costs and land prices were relatively low.

  2. No worries Dave.

    I think several administrations going right back to the ’60’s & ’70’s had grand plans for the ground but every time ran into an unsympathetic council and hostile residents.

    Not that CFC can purport to being in the same league but going to the G (or Waverley) was as inevitable as Man Utd leaving the old Old Trafford for a new super stadium to cater for demand.

    As for the scoreboard, maybe someone can shed some light but having seen it leading up to its removal it must have been close to beyond repair without virtually rebuilding it.

  3. Matt Zurbo says:

    Jeff, thanks from me too. I saw many things good and bad and very Collingwood there over many years. The world moves on, as well my beloved Roy Boys know. Nice to see they’ve opened it to the public, and acknowledged the history of the place.Agree with David, the art has no context. Maybe there should be a series of history boards, spaced out, giving someone strolling a lap a good hour or more of being lost in its former world. Would cost a fraction of any art and be far more interactive.

  4. Thanks Matt.

    There actually is a number of history boards spaced all around the ground – there’s one in the photos I posted (next to the BBQ’s). Those combined with the steps are pretty comprehensive.

    The scoreboard may not be everone’s cup of tea which is fair enough. i think it’s more directed at kids with an interactive component (you need to go up close to the installation).

Leave a Comment

*