Published: 23 Oct 2021
Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.
Sarah Howard is a third-generation Geelong Cats supporter. For her, Kardinia Park isn’t just the home of Australia’s best regional sports stadium. It’s an important part of her family history, and a place of cherished moments spent with her late father, Murray.
“Some of my most precious memories are of him down at the ground cheering on the Cats,” Sarah says.
After the final siren, Murray would take Sarah and her brother onto the ground to kick a footy. Sometimes they’d head to the locker room so players could sign their ball.
“The Cats are in our blood,” Sarah says.
The Howard family connection to Geelong Football Club – one of the oldest football clubs in the world – stretches back to Murray’s father. The club and family histories are closely intertwined.
When Murray passed away suddenly two years ago, Sarah found herself at games without him for the first time in her life.
During this time of family upheaval, big changes also were happening at Kardinia Park with a major redevelopment underway.
The Victorian Government has invested $142 million in the fifth and final stage of the project, which will increase the stadium capacity beyond 40,000, build a sports museum, professional and community sports facilities including unisex change rooms new cricket facilities, and provide an enhanced patron experience.
The project includes demolishing and replacing the Gary Ablett Terrace, where Sarah sat for decades with her family.
“I’m all for it, I think it will look great,” Sarah says about the project.
But she was worried it might separate the close community of fans, some of whom had warmed seats in the terrace for 30 years.
With the help of Geelong Football Club, Sarah has “built a web” of around 30 other fans and worked to keep them together once the project is complete.
She has been overwhelmed by the Cats’ support, and by the closeness of her footy community. And she knows it would have mattered to her dad.
“He was excited for us to get our turn at the upgrade, but he didn’t want us to lose our seats and the people we have been seated near for many years,” Sarah says. “The Cats giving members the opportunity to submit seating requests has really meant a lot.”
With Cat blood flowing through her veins, and the community by her side, Sarah is roaring to get back to watching the game she loves, and to again creating memories at Kardinia Park.
The Kardinia Park Redevelopment is due for completion in mid-2023.