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Tomorrow's Heroes: Thomas

Thomas qualifies to join North through the NGA as an indigenous prospect in the Roos' Tasmanian zone.

3:10pm Nov 16, 2018

The force within

Michael Yai Garang speaks about the physically and mentally testing Kokoda trek.

2:08pm Nov 16, 2018

Arden Street (formerly the North Melbourne Recreation Reserve) has been the home of the North Melbourne Football Club for more than 125 years.

Originally the Hotham Cricket Club served as the ground’s only tenant. This was until 1882 before the Hotham Football Club – as North was known at that stage – moved there. This was to force an upgrade and improvements to the ground.

The first game of football ever played at North Melbourne Recreation Reserve took place on the 29th of April, 1882. On that day, Hotham defeated Royal Park. Five years later, the Town of Hotham reverted to the name of North Melbourne, with the football club following suit in 1888.

In the early days the cricket and football clubs were forced to share the ground. Unsurprisingly it resulted in many disputes. In the late 1890’s both clubs ended up in court over a clash about the use of a cricket pavilion by a visiting football team.

The court eventually ruled in favour of the cricket club. They cited that since it was Crown land and that it was illegal to fence off any part of it for the benefit of either party.

1906 was a momentous year, as it saw the beginning of construction on the ground’s first ever grandstand. Just three years later, control of the ground shifted to the Parks and Gardens Committee of the Melbourne City Council. This meant the State Minister for Lands had final say over the use of the reserve.
 


After a brief moment late in 1921 when it appeared Essendon would take control of the venue, management was transferred permanently in 1922. The football and cricket clubs now owned the ground and promptly set about improving it. In an attempt to increase revenue, the ground was made more appealing to spectators and players alike, with one improvement being the installation of hot showers in the change-rooms.

North Melbourne’s admittance into the VFL in 1925 came when support for the club was at an all-time high. It resulted in another upgrade of Arden Street, including construction of the main grandstand in 1928. It was at this time that the North Melbourne Recreation Reserve started to be referred to as Arden Street. It held 2,000 spectators and remained open until 1991, before being demolished in 2006.

Between 1957 and 1962, the Melbourne Greyhound Racing Association used Arden Street as the venue for its Greyhound meetings. They were held on Monday nights and the crowds were regularly in excess of 4,000.

The Greyhound races led to the building of the betting ring, which was a concreted area behind the grandstand built in 1928. After the Greyhounds departed Arden Street, the betting ring was used as a car park and equipment shelter before being destroyed in 2006 by an arson attack.

In 1965, North Melbourne made a move away from its home of almost a century. Its playing and training base relocated from Arden Street to Coburg City Oval.

 

It was intended to be a permanent move. In fact the initial negotiations were for long-term leases of 40 years. However it was cancelled after only eight months, meaning North was free to return to Arden Street in 1966.

The club’s return was marked by construction of a new administration building and a Social Club. Up until that time, there hadn’t been any new buildings since the 1928 grandstand.

While the 1970’s marked North’s first two premierships, Arden Street was more well remembered in that time for the infamous ‘elephant incident’. Former marketing manager and Roo full-back Barry Cheatley described the incident to the Herald Sun in 2004:

"The elephant was part of a circus promotion we got involved in.

"We were playing Collingwood at Arden St in front of a (then) record crowd of 31,424 in 1978.

"The elephant came on at halftime and as he was leaving, complete with rider and handler, Collingwood ran onto the ground and a roar went up.

"It startled the elephant who broke into a jog as he headed towards the crowd.

"His handler stopped him a few feet before absolute carnage broke out."

 


As the VFL grew, North Melbourne had to keep pace by moving its home matches to a bigger venue – the MCG. Therefore Arden Street hosted its last VFL match on the 17th of August, 1985 when the Kangaroos faced Richmond.

In total, Arden Street hosted a total of 529 VFL matches. The record attendance was 35,116 in 1949, while the highest score was North’s 29.19.193 in 1983 against Carlton.

Despite home matches being moved away from Arden Street, the venue remained the base for North. Perhaps infamously, the facilities of the ground lagged behind other AFL clubs, yet it didn’t stop the Roos on the way to two premierships in the 1990’s.

A common quote around the traps when asked about the facilities was, ‘the weights weigh just as much as West Coast’s!’

As part of the long awaited redevelopment of Arden Street, the former social club and administration buildings were demolished in 2009.

Completed in time for the 2010 season, the new building included administration, training and recreational facilities. It meant that the entire club was under one roof again, with the administration able to move out from Etihad Stadium.

During the summer of 2012-2013, the Arden Street oval was resurfaced. The change included removal of the turf cricket wickets, while increasing the ground dimensions to the same size as Etihad Stadium.

In 2018, North Melbourne announced plans for a major redevelopment of the Arden St Oval precinct, in a move that would keep the club at its spiritual home forever, and bring back football to the North Melbourne area, in the form of VFL and AFLW. 

With the redevelopment estimated to cost in the region of $10 million, the club appealed to its loyal fan base for help with the funds, with the hope of raising $1 million in a special one-off 24-hour fundraiser. 

North's amazing supporters responded in stunning fashion, raising $1.3 million in the 24-hour window. 

With the funds secured, North CEO Carl Dilena announced in that construction on the on the precinct would begin in October, 2018.