The historic grandstand which has graced Marrickville’s Henson Park for more than 80 years could get a radical and modern makeover if plans to turn the ground into a mecca for women’s Australian Rules become reality.
Preliminary plans have been lodged with Inner West Council by AFL NSW/ACT to build a $6.2 million extension to the 1937 King George V Memorial Grandstand.
The plans show how the existing 1970s brick commentator’s box would be demolished and replaced with a new building, which would be connected to the rear of the grandstand.
The exact uses for the building have not been clarified as the proposal is at the pre-development application stage and therefore is not on public exhibition.
However, it is expected to play a central role upgrading the antiquated changing room facilities at Henson Park, which a council report said were – among other things – not ‘female friendly’.
The new building appears to be far longer, but potentially not as tall, as the building depicted in sketches released when Inner West Council considered the Henson Park plan of management in July this year.
This could well be controversial, given that some community members raised concerns about the “bulk and scale” of the proposed alterations and the impacts on the heritage value of Henson Park, as part of community consultation on the plan of management.
A Heritage Impact Statement which has been released says the existing broadcaster’s box does not meet modern building codes and is “of a relatively mundane nature and its functionality is considered to be sub-standard and outdated.”
“The proposed works are an appropriate intervention into the place and its structures,” the Heritage Impact Statement says.
Henson Park has been the home of the Newtown Jets rugby league club since 1936 and was also the location of the closing ceremony of the 1938 British Empire Games. The ground is listed as a heritage item in the Marrickville local environmental plan.
While the ground is best known for its connection to rugby league, in the future it is expected to showcase women’s AFL, with the Sydney Swans’ women’s team to start playing matches at the ground from next year.
As a former brickpit, the ground is a natural and grand amphitheatre and is said to have a potential capacity of more than 30,000 people.
In recent years, Henson Park has been embraced as a retro icon by inner-Sydney’s hipster set at annual “Beer, Food and Footy Festivals” held alongside Newtown Jets matches.
Declaration of potential interest: The author once drank beer and ate crisps in the commentator’s box watching a Jets game with former Marrickville mayor Barry Cotter during the 1990s
Find out more about this application by typing in PDA/2021/0382 at Inner West Council’s DA tracking system here
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