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The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is an Australian sports stadium located in Yarra Park, Melbourne, Victoria and is home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. It is the tenth largest stadium in the world, the largest in Australia, the largest stadium for playing cricket, and holds the world record for the highest light towers at any sporting venue. The MCG is within walking distance of the city centre and is serviced by the Richmond railway station, Richmond and the Jolimont railway station, East Melbourne. It is part of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct.

Internationally, the MCG is remembered as the centrepiece stadium of both the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The open-air stadium is also one of the world's most famous cricket venues, with the well-attended Boxing Day Test match commencing on Boxing Day (26 December) each year. Throughout the winter, it serves as the home of Australian rules football, with at least one game (though usually more) held there each round. The stadium fills to capacity for the AFL Grand Final in late September, or early October.

The MCG, often referred to by locals as "The G", has also hosted other major events, including International Rules between the Australian Football League (AFL) and Gaelic Athletic Association, international Rugby union, State of Origin series (rugby league), FIFA World Cup qualifiers and International Friendly matches, serves as the finish line for the Melbourne Marathon and also major rock concerts.

Until the 1970s, more than 120,000 people sometimes crammed into the venue – the record crowd standing at around 130,000 for a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in 1959, followed by 121,696 for the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Grandstand redevelopments and occupational health and safety legislation have now limited the maximum seating capacity to approximately 95,000 with an additional 5000 standing room capacity, bringing the total capacity to just over 100,000.

The MCG is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and was included on the Australian National Heritage List on 26 December 2005. It is referred to within Victoria as the "Spiritual Home of Australian Sport".

Early history

Founded in November 1838 the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) selected the current MCG site in 1853 after previously playing at several grounds around Melbourne. The club’s first game was against a military team at the Old Mint site, at the corner of William and Latrobe Streets. Burial Hill (now Flagstaff railway station) became its home ground in January 1839, however, the area was already set aside for Botanical Gardens and the club was moved on in October 1846, to an area on the south bank of the Yarra about where the Herald and Weekly Times
MCG-1864

Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1 January 1864

building is today. Unfortunately the area was subject to flooding forcing the club to move again, this time to a ground in South Melbourne.

It was not long before the club was forced out again, this time because of the expansion of the railway. The South Melbourne ground was in the path of Victoria’s first steam railway line from Melbourne to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). Governor La Trobe offered the MCC a choice of three sites; an area adjacent to the existing ground, a site at the junction of Flinders and Spring Streets or a ten-acre (about 4 hectares) section of the Government Paddock at Richmond next to Richmond Park.

This last option, which is now Yarra Park, had been used by Aborigines until 1835. Between 1835 and 1853 it was an agistment area for colonial troopers’ horses. In 1850 it was part of a 200-acre (81 ha) stretch set aside for public recreation extending from Governor La Trobe’s Jolimont Estate to the Yarra River. By 1853 it had become a busy promenade for Melbourne residents.

An MCC sub-committee chose the Richmond Park option because it was level enough for cricket but sloped enough to prevent inundation. That ground was located where the Richmond, or outer, end of the current MCG is now.

At the same time the Richmond Cricket Club was given occupancy rights to six acres (2.4 hectares) for another cricket ground on the eastern side of the Government Paddock.

At the time of the land grant the Government stipulated that the ground was to be used for cricket and cricket only. This condition remained until 1933 when the State Government allowed the MCG’s uses to be broadened to include other purposes when not being used for cricket.

In 1863 a corridor of land running diagonally across Yarra Park was granted to the Hobson’s Bay Railway and divided Yarra Park from the river. The area closest to the river was also developed for sporting purposes in later years including Olympic venues in 1956

Stadium development

The first grandstand at the MCG was the original wooden members’ stand built in 1854, while the first public grandstand was a 200-metre long 6000-seat temporary structure built in 1861. Another grandstand seating 2000 and facing one way to the cricket ground and the other way to the park where football was played, was built in 1876 for the 1877 visit of James Lillywhite’s English cricket team. It was during this tour that the first Test Match was played.

In 1881 the original members’ stand was sold to the Richmond Cricket Club for £55. A new brick stand, considered at the time to be the world’s finest cricket facility, was built in its place. The foundation stone was laid by Prince George of Wales and Prince Albert Victor on 4 July and the stand opened in December that year. It was also in 1881 that a telephone was installed at the ground, and the wickets and goal posts were changed from an east-west orientation to north-south. In 1882 a scoreboard was built which showed details of the batsman's name and how he was dismissed.

800px-New Ponsford Stand Construction

A view of the reconstruction of the Ponsford Stand in October 2003.

When the Lillywhite tour stand burnt down in 1884 it was replaced by a new stand which seated 450 members and 4500 public. In 1897 second storey wings were added to ‘The Grandstand’, as it was known, increasing capacity to 9,000 and in 1900 it was lit with electric light.

More stands were built in the early 20th Century. An open wooden stand was on the south side of the ground in 1904 and the 2084-seat Grey Smith Stand (known as the New Stand until 1912) was erected for members in 1906. The 4000-seat Harrison Stand on the ground’s southern side was built in 1908 followed by the 8000-seat Wardill Stand in 1912. In the 15 years after 1897 the stand capacity at the ground increased to nearly 20,000.

In 1927 the second brick members’ stand was replaced at a cost of £60,000. The Harrison and Wardill Stands were demolished in 1936 to make way for the Southern Stand which was completed in 1937. The Southern Stand seated 18,200 under cover and 13,000 in the open and was the main public area of the MCG. It was where the famous Bay 13 was located, the MCG’s equivalent to The Hill at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The Northern Stand, also known as the Olympic Stand, was built to replace the old Grandstand for the 1956 Olympic Games. Ten years later, the Grey Smith Stand and the open concrete stand next to it were replaced by the Western Stand; the Duke of Edinburgh laid a foundation stone for the Western Stand on 3 March 1967, and it was completed in 1968. In 1986, the Western Stand was renamed the Ponsford Stand in honour of Victorian batsman Bill Ponsford.

The MCG was the home of Australia’s first full colour video scoreboard, which replaced the old scoreboard in 1982, located on Level 4 of the Ponsford Stand, with a second video screen added in 1994 almost directly opposite, located on Level 4 of the Olympic stand.. In 1985, light towers were installed at the ground, allowing for night football and day-night cricket games.

In 1988 inspections of the old Southern Stand found concrete cancer and provided the opportunity to replace the increasingly run-down 50-year-old facility. The projected cost of $100 million was outside what the Melbourne Cricket Club could afford so the Victorian Football League took the opportunity to part fund the project in return for a 30-year deal to share the ground. The new Great Southern Stand was completed in 1992, in time for the 1992 Cricket World Cup, at a final cost of $150 million.

The 1928 Members' stand, the 1956 Olympic stand and the 1968 Ponsford stand were demolished one by one between late 2003 to 2005, and replaced with a new structure in time for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Despite now standing as a single unbroken stand, the individual sections retain the names of Ponsford, Olympic and Members Stands. The redevelopment cost exceeded A$400 million and pushed the ground's capacity over the 100,000 mark. Since redevelopment, the highest attendance was the 2010 Grand Final of the AFL with 100,016.

From 2011 until 2013, the Victorian Government and the Melbourne Cricket Club will fund a $55 million refurbishment of the facilities of Great Southern Stand, including renovations to entrance gates and ticket outlets, food and beverage outlets, public concourses, toilets, function rooms, etc.; the grandstand itself will not be substantially modified as part of the refurbishment.

Shining Brightly

The MCG has had a very important part in the Sports side of Melbourne. Here is a List of what Sport events happen at the MCG:

  • Flat,550x550,075,f

    2006 Commenwelth Games

    VFL/AFL Grand Finals
  • Cricket Series
  • 1956 Olympic Games
  • 2006 Commonwealth Games
  • Australian World Cup soccer qualifiers
  • Rugby league home and away matches
  • Music concerts
  • Pope John Paul II held a mass in 1986
  •  World Police and Fire Games (1995)
  • World Masters Games (2002)

People from all over Australia, and indeed all over the world, speak reverently about the MCG, a ground that is as well known as any other.

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