The Waitakere City Athletic Club is what it is today because of many years of voluntary labour and financial assistance by a group of dedicated individuals. What began as a vision in the early 1950’s for an athletic club in Henderson, has become a venue of high community value with international standing not only for athletics, but also a range of other sporting and community activities.
Summary of the History
THE EARLY DAYS – THE FIRST 30 YEARS – 1952 to 1982
The Waitemata Amateur Athletic Club, now the Waitakere City Athletic Club, was founded in 1952 by the late Mr George Searle.
Mr Searle and his wife Florence had three sons and a daughter, all of whom were keen on sport. The boys played junior rugby at the Waitemata Rugby Club. The oldest son, Stuart, also showed considerable promise as an athlete at school. But there was no athletic club west of Henderson township in the early 1950’s. On the 29th September 1952 Mr Searle held a public meeting at the YMCA Hall on Great North Road, Henderson with a proposal to form an athletic club based in Henderson.
After a positive response at the meeting it was decided to form an athletic club and call it the Waitemata Amateur Athletic Club adopting the red, green and black colours of the Waitemata Rugby Club.
THE SECOND STAGE – 1982 to 1994
In the early 1980’s the membership of the Waitemata Club grew so rapidly that the Ratanui Street property (land and buildings) was becoming inadequate for a club of this size.
The Henderson township was also developing very quickly and commercial land was becoming extremely scarce. In 1982 the club’s land was re-zoned for commercial use. The then Henderson Borough Council had offered the Waitemata Amateur Athletic Club $200,000.00 to purchase the club’s Ratanui Street land and buildings and re-locate the club at Henderson Park. The offer was turned down. The club’s Ratanui Street property was subsequently sold to commercial developers for $700,000.00.
In 1982-83 the Waitemata Amateur Athletic Club negotiated with the Waitemata City Council to move to a new stadium where it would lease at a “peppercorn rental” an outdoor grass track and field stadium to be constructed by Council.
THE THIRD STAGE – 1994 to 2002
In August, 1994, the Waitemata Amateur Athletic Club took the dramatic step to change its name to the Waitakere City Athletic Club, primarily to identify itself as the premier club in the new city. The club also wanted to align itself more with the Waitakere City Council which had superseded the Waitemata City Council.
Throughout the mid to late 1990’s the athletic club faced major financial problems. It was costing almost $100,000.00 to run the indoor stadium and expenses were exceeding income. The club’s committee members were spending almost all of their time and energy trying to keep the club from going under financially with very little time left to concentrate on developing the athletic programme.
The agreement was that a value be placed on the Waitakere City Athletic Club’s indoor stadium and footprint lease together with the right to occupy the athletic track on the main outdoor stadium. The athletic club’s stadium would then be demolished to make way for the Trusts Stadium.
The athletic club, from its pivotal standing tenant position, facilitated negotiations which led to an outcome where the athletic club and the rugby club gained the right to lease a dedicated area in the proposed indoor stadium, which would include a large lounge area and associated facilities (“the clubrooms”), use of a 4-lane x 60 metres indoor running track for certain stated times and also use, under a licence to occupy, of a 400 metres all weather athletic track to be established in the outdoor stadium area.
THE FOURTH STAGE – 2002 to 2008
In early 2002, the Waitakere City Athletic Club indicated, through its lawyer Bernie Allen, that it would consider the surrender of its footprint lease and the demolition of its multi-million dollar stadium provided key elements were met, most of which were included in the agreement drawn up between the Waitakere City Rugby Club and the Waitakere City Athletic Club.
The athletic club also insisted that an all-weather athletic track of international configuration and standard be laid as part of the redevelopment of the stadium. The athletic club would require the use of the all-weather athletic track at specified times under a new licence to occupy.
The club emphasised that an all-weather athletic track would bring Waitakere Stadium into line with other parts of Greater Auckland – namely Auckland City (Mt Smart Stadium), the North Shore (Millennium Stadium) and Counties Manukau (Massey Park, Papakura), all of which had all-weather athletic tracks.
The Trusts Stadium was built at a cost of $28,017,889.00, was completed in August 2004 and officially opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark on 9th September 2004. The Trusts Stadium opened debt free. Major financial contributions and grants came from the Waitakere City Council ($12,541,000.00), The Trusts (Waitakere City and Portage Licensing Trusts ($5 million) and the ASB Charitable Trusts $4.5 million.
Graeme Douglas (Douglas Pharmaceuticals) gave a substantial grant towards to cost of the all-weather athletic track, which is named “Douglas Track and Field”. Graeme once again demonstrated his generosity, not only to athletics in Waitakere City but to the Waitakere City community in general.
In 2008, Mr Ron Hanson retired after fifteen years as the club’s President, Chairman and Treasurer. Mr Hanson was instrumental in the successful amalgamation of the Waitakere City Athletic and Rugby Clubs, the move to the Trusts Stadium, and in ensuring that the club had a strong financial base to continue into the future. Mr Hanson and his wife Betty were farewelled at a dinner at the Trusts Stadium where they were presented with a framed photo of the Waitakere Stadium including the all-weather athletic track and grandstand.