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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)

71

Recreation Ground.

Petone has always been sports-minded, and the need of a recreation area was felt in the early nineties; but the small community was not in a position to shoulder the expense. The demand grew, however, and in October, 1897, as the result of the work of a special committee of the Borough Council, a report was adopted, which agreed to accept the offer of the Wellington Gas Company to lease the whole of its Petone land to the Council for ten years at a rental equal to 3 per cent. of £3,500, which amount was fixed as the purchase price, should the Council at any time during the ten years exercise its right to purchase. The following year a lease was arranged from Mr. W. B. Buick for the lease of a further strip of land to the east of the Gas Company's property, this area being that running back in a northerly direction from the north end of the Technical College class-rooms. It was on this strip that the caretaker's brick cottage was afterwards built.
In July, 1898, a right-of-way was arranged into the recreation ground from Britannia Street, and in August 1898, arrangements were made to give the Wellington Trotting Club certain rights, including the holding of meetings on the recreation ground for the sum of £300 per annum. Among the conditions was one, that the Trotting Club had to erect a grandstand to the value of £200, which was to become the property of the Council. This work was carried out in 1899, when the recently removed stand was erected. A portion of the land was used as the site for the gasworks, and a large portion north-east of the gasworks, through to Wakefield Street, was leased as a farm.
In 1907 the Council exercised its right of purchase of both the area leased from the Gas Company and that belonging to Mr. W. B. Buick. Still later the land on which the Technical College (class-room portion) now stands was acquired and handed over to the Board of Managers for technical school purposes.
The whole deal was a great financial success, as during the period of the ten years' lease the value of the land had increased at a rapid rate.
The ground has proved to be one of the most popular sports grounds in the Dominion, and many a historic Rugby battle has been staged on the oval.
Early in its history as a recreation area, cycle racing was at the height of its popularity, and to cater for this sport the Council built up a banked cycle-track, one of very few in the Dominion. The track was exceedingly popular and cycle meetings drew contestants from all parts of the Dominion. Incidentally, the raised track is greatly appreciated by Rugby spectators, its sealed surface providing a dry vantage ground from which to view the game. The area not required for sports is excellently laid out in shrubs and flowers.

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