As Victoria’s second-biggest city has reversed its fortunes, this historical stadium has been given new life

In the 70s and 80s, Geelong kids would gather empty beer cans from the feet of adults at Kardinia Park.

Back then, the cans were strong and could hold a young child’s weight if they were stacked just right.

Standing on top, a young footy fan could get a clear view of the field, where their heroes donned the blue and white hoops of one of the oldest football teams in the world.

A boy from nearby Winchelsea named Denis Napthine was one of those beer-can architects.

“I barracked for the Cats from day dot,” Dr Napthine says.

Former Victorian premier Denis Napthine watched his beloved Geelong Cats at Kardinia Park from a young age.(ABC News: Harrison Tippet)

“[Some of my] earliest memories are the thrill of being able to come down to Kardinia Park and see my heroes play. And coming down with dad and the family and being in the outer.

“And you’re only a little fella at that stage, I was only 11 and 12, and by the time the game was on you barely could see, so what you had to do is collect a whole heap of beer cans.”

This was about 60 years ago, but he still reels off the names of young Denis’s favourite Cats.

“To see Polly Farmer play, to see Billy Goggins’s stab passes, and Doug Wade, and the tough fellas in the backline, John Devine and Geoff Rosenow. And the drop kicks of Paul Vinar, and the skills of John Sharrock,” he says, with youthful fervour.

Little did young Denis know, as he studied his heroes from atop his beer can watchtower, that he would later return to Kardinia Park as Victoria’s premier to pledge a $26 million portion of what would eventually be a $340 million, 20-year redevelopment of Geelong’s stadium precinct.

The exterior of a stadium at dusk, with the flood lights on and Geelong Cats branding on the side.

Kardinia Park has undergone a five-stage upgrade over 20 years.(ABC News: Cameron Best)

Aim to make Kardinia Park Australia’s best regional stadium

The state government and Kardinia Park Stadium Trust (KPST) will officially announce the completion of the new 14,000-seat Joel Selwood grandstand this week, just in time for the Cats to play in the centre of the new 40,000-capacity stadium on Saturday night.

The finishing touches are still being put on remainder of the $142-million stage of the redevelopment, including a new indoor cricket hub, sports museum and entry plaza, but this week effectively marks the blare of the final siren on the stadium’s upgrade.

A photo of a stand in construction

The new Joel Selwood stand in the late stages of construction.(Supplied: Kardinia Park Stadium Trust)

It comes almost three-and-a-half years after the state government announced it would fully fund the fifth stage of “the MCG of regional Australia”.

“With new and improved facilities and a bigger capacity, the stadium will continue to attract A-grade sport and entertainment to Geelong and ensure that the city’s name is known around the globe,” then-sports minister Martin Pakula said.

KPST, the body assigned to govern the state asset, will wait for this week’s official opening to make their own statements, but it’s almost certain they’ll point out that the stadium is far more than a footy oval.

It attracts top-flight cricket, soccer and rugby matches, numerous community sports and activities – and even one of the biggest rock bands in the world, the Foo Fighters.

A crowd of Geelong Cats fans in a stadium grandstand, wearing blue and white, holding banners and shaking oversized pom poms.

Kardinia Park is predominantly the Geelong Football Club’s home, but also hosts a range of sporting and entertainment events.(AAP: Julian Smith)

They’ll likely also note they have already won the title of Australia’s Best Regional Stadium in last year’s fan-voted AusStadiums awards.

“It’s a real feather in the cap of all the hard work of the people here to get this award, and it’s vindication of what we’re aiming to be, which is exactly that – Australia’s best regional stadium,” KPST CEO Gerard Griffen said at the time.

Five stages of funding over two decades

The overhaul of Geelong’s stadium began as an idea of the club’s leaders in the late 90s.

Over the next couple of decades, the club would continue to push all levels of government for funding pledges.

Politicians would steadily stream down the Princes Freeway to make their announcements at Kardinia Park.

There was $26 million for stage one, then $25 million for the next, and $48 million for the third stage.

The final two stages have been the big ones.

An aerial colour photo of a large sports stadium

Kardinia Park in 1990 before the redevelopment began.(Supplied: Geelong Advertiser, Bob Gartland Collection)

It cost $90 million to build the Brownlow Stand, new football department and stadium entry, opened in 2017.

And then the current $142-million final stage, with the state government picking up the entire tab.

While the federal government, local council, AFL and Cats themselves have all kicked in parts of the $340 million total overhaul of the stadium, the State is responsible for the majority of it — at about $260 million.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, with the completion of the final stage delayed almost a year by defects discovered in imported steel, and a 2010 miscalculation finding the stage three project $12 million short, prompting cutbacks to planned works.

Two men standing on a sports field while talking to one another

Former Geelong Football Club captain Joel Selwood with Kardinia Park Trust CEO Gerard Griffin after the stand was named in the footballer’s honour.(Supplied: Kardinia Park Stadium Trust)

The regular flow of taxpayer funds for the precinct has earned it the unofficial nickname “Pork Barrel Park” — a tag Dr Napthine disputes.

“I can very strongly say this investment in Kardinia Park, investment in the redevelopment of the ground, has been a really regional development investment that really has helped transform Geelong… investing in Kardinia Park, is an investment in the future of Geelong, and the future of Victoria as well,” he says.

Stadium precinct’s fortunes mirror those of Geelong

There’s a Geelong cliché that when the footy club is winning, the city is too.

The same could be said of Kardinia Park — the stadium’s complete overhaul is symbolic of both the Cats’ and the city’s reinvigoration.

By the end of the 90s the footy club was virtually on its knees – broke, $6 million in debt and having not won a premiership since 1963 while losing four grand finals between 1989 and 1995.

The city too, was doing it tough.

An aerial black and white photo of a large sports stadium

Kardinia Park in 1980.(Supplied: Geelong Advertiser, Bob Gartland Collection)

The 1990 collapse of “Geelong’s Bank” the Pyramid Building Society wiped out life savings for many in the region, as jobs also started to dry up in the manufacturing town, continuing well into the new century.

But alongside the redevelopment of Kardinia Park has been a revival of the city’s fortunes.

The Cats have the best win-loss record in the league since 2000 including four premierships, while the city itself is one of the fastest growing regional centres in Australia having established new employment opportunities.

Geelong historian and former Cats vice president Bob Gartland has the largest private collection of Cats artefacts in existence, and a thorough understanding of the club’s importance to his hometown.

A man smiling at the camera surrounded by dozens of Geelong cats jumpers on the walls

Geelong historian Bob Gartland says the expansion of Kardinia Park has reflected the growth of Geelong.(ABC News: Harrison Tippet)

“The development of the stadium sort of runs parallel with the development of the city, I think,” he says, flanked by game-worn jumpers of Cats legends.

“As Geelong grows the stadium has grown.”

“Those good fortunes and successes that [the Cats] had were mirrored in society, in the community, in business around Geelong. So, the football club in many ways has actually been central to the success of the region.

“I think the people are the heart of Geelong, buildings and the fabric of buildings are great, but it’s the people who represent for me anyway the heart of Geelong and the heart of the Geelong spirit.

“I think the stadium precinct is probably the glue that holds us all together.”

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A market slaughtering dogs was a top tourist attraction. Then a video was leaked

The Tomohon Extreme Market was once a top tourist attraction in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi — a live animal market filled with everything from fileted pythons to skewered bats and rats.

But the market drew international condemnation in 2018 after animal activists shot videos of dogs and cats being brutally beaten and blowtorched alive.

Activists urged major travel companies to stop recommending the market as a tourism site, said Lola Webber, Humane Society International’s director of campaigns.

Companies like Tripadvisor swiftly complied, she said.

But banning the dog and cat meat trade — part of a long-held tradition among the local Minahasa people — was significantly harder, she said.

“We were told by many for many years, you’ll never change North Sulawesi, you’ll never change Tomohon. it is impossible,” Webber said.

They were wrong.

A ‘huge win’

After the ban went into effect, 25 dogs and three cats were rescued. They were taken to a sanctuary run by Animal Friends Manado Indonesia for quarantine, after which they will hopefully be placed in their “forever homes, either within Indonesia or internationally,” said Humane Society International’s Lola Webber

Source: Humane Society International

“It’s an enormous victory for animal protection and literally the thousands and thousands of dogs and cats that are spared from Tomohon market every month,” she said.

The traders were given a “small grant” to stop participating in the trade, she told CNBC Travel, while the coalition of activists lobbied the government about the disease risks of live animal markets, which ranges from viruses like Covid-19 to rabies.

Rabies is endemic in much of Indonesia, including the island of Sulawesi, according to the World Health Organization.

Next steps

The ban of dog and cat meat in the Tomohon market is a step in the right direction, but problems with the trade don’t end there, said Michael Patching, chairperson of Impetus Animal Welfare.

One issue is an influx of stray animals, he said. “Bali dealt with this issue by poisoning stray dogs, which ended up being just as bad, if not worse, than those that have been subjected to the dog meat trade.”

A live dog can cost up to $40, and one that has already been killed is priced from $2.30 to $4 per kilogram, said Frank Delano Manus of Animal Friends Manado Indonesia.

Source: Humane Society International

To combat this, the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition is supporting programs to spay, neuter and vaccinate dogs and cats in Indonesia, said Webber.

She said she hopes to use the Tomohon market ban as a precedent to work with government, market management, meat traders and the public in other provinces where dog meat is eaten too.

Polling suggests only 5% of Indonesia’s population has ever tried it, said Webber. Yet there are hot spots where it’s eaten, like Java’s Surakarta (or Solo) and North Sulawesi, the latter being a predominantly Christian enclave in a Muslim-majority nation. (Like pigs, dogs are viewed as being unclean, and therefore not suitable for consumption, in the Muslim faith.)

Humane Society International's Lola Webber speaks about rescuing dogs and cats after Tomohon market ban

In those areas, activists raise public awareness of the cruelty of the trade and the trafficking that goes along with it, which often involves the theft of family pets.

“We’ve interviewed so many people who’ve had their dogs and cats stolen,” Webber said.

Poor governance

Many activists who spoke to CNBC Travel said poor governance is the biggest hurdle to ending the dog and cat meat trade.

Frank Delano Manus, an animal rights advocate at Animal Friends Manado Indonesia, said 95% of North Sulawesi’s exotic animal meat is sent from neighboring provinces — without government checks or quarantine regulations.

A timeline of Indonesia’s dog meat trade

  • 2017: Bali cracks down on dog meat vendors
  • 2019: The regency of Karanganyar in central Java bans the dog trade
  • 2022: The city of Medan and the capital city of Jakarta ban dog meat
  • Today: Bans exist in 22 cities and regencies

Indonesian officials did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

When his organization tried to ban the sale of snake and bat meat when the pandemic hit in 2020, it received a “flat response” from the government, he said.

“When people ask me what’s the number one problem in Indonesia, I always say it’s the lack of law enforcement,” Manus told CNBC.

Indonesia has a huge pet-loving community, said Webber, which includes the dog meat traders. “Every trader has a pet, at least one pet dog.”

Source: Humane Society International

The sale of dog meat is illegal other parts of Asia, including Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But the industry lives on in places like China and South Korea — and Vietnam.

“While all the focus has been on South Korea, Indonesia and other countries, Vietnam’s dog and cat meat trade has continued to thrive,” said Rahul Sehgal, director of international advocacy at the Soi Dog Foundation, adding that “millions of signatures” on online petitions have not made a difference.

Rescued animals being transported by members of the Humane Society International to a care and rehabilitation center on July 21, 2023, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Source: Humane Society International

“In Vietnam, every third shop is a pet grooming salon, every fifth shop is a pet supply store, but every twentieth shop is a slaughterhouse or a restaurant that is selling dog or cat meat,” he told CNBC, adding that it’s eaten for cultural, superstitious and medicinal purposes.

“Just like how the Chinese use rhino horns or tiger bones for traditional medicine, cat bones are said to cure a host of illnesses like asthma,” he said. “But there is no scientific basis to this.”

An opening for more travelers

Though Tomohon Extreme Market was once marketed as a tourist attraction — and in some places, it still is — the dog and cat meat ban may bring in more travelers to North Sulawesi.

In a Tripadvisor post on March 5, a user discusses reading about Sulawesi’s dog meat trade.

The post states: “Well the next trip was going to be to Sulawesi, Indonesia … I don’t care what you eat, but torture should not be a part of it. Therefore I cannot in good conscience travel there.”

A screenshot of a post on Tripadvisor in a forum discussing Sulawesi.

Screen shot from Tripadvisor

Negative media attention frustrated the dog meat traders, Webber said.

“People would see it, and feel very strongly about it,” she said. “International tourists, national tourists, and locals themselves didn’t want to see that degree of brutality.”

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Pets and fireworks: How to keep your animals calm and safe on July 4 | CNN

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We may find fireworks beautiful and festive, but they explode like magnified gunfire in the exquisitely sensitive ears of many of our pets.

Measuring between 150 and 175 decibels, fireworks are louder than many planes at takeoff (about 140 decibels). Decibels measure the loudness of a sound while hertz measure the frequency of a sound.

Human ears are damaged at a mere 85 decibels. Yet we can hear to only about 20,000 hertz, while dogs can hear between 45,000 and 65,000 hertz. Just think of the physical and emotional damage that might occur to a dog left outside to face the noise.

Not to mention that when frightened, dogs bolt, and owners may lose their best friends in the night.

“Dogs have been known to dig under or jump over fences, break tethers or even shatter windows in response to their fireworks fears,” according to Best Friends Animal Society, one of the nation’s oldest no-kill agencies.

That leaves dogs running loose, possibly to be struck by cars, picked up by strangers, even turned into local animal shelters. Anxious pet owners may face barriers in identifying and rescuing their pet.

Statistics show at least 40% of dogs have noise phobias, which can include fear of thunderstorms, leaf blowers, power drills and even hair dryers. But those noises are relatively constant, experts say, while fireworks are frighteningly sporadic and therefore unexpected.

“Many animals associate loud noises with danger,” said Dr. Michelle Lugones, a veterinarian with Best Friends Animal Society. “From an evolutionary standpoint they are wired to avoid perceived threats, so it’s not surprising that fireworks are distressing to many animals.”

It’s not just dogs. Cats and many other domestic and wild animals have sensitive hearing, provided by nature to find and hunt prey.

“It’s very likely that cats suffer just as much from fireworks phobia as dogs,” Lugones said. “But since cats tend to be more independent in the home and usually run and hide during fearful situations, their owners may just not realize that they are distressed from fireworks.”

Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are prey species and so are easily stressed, Lugones continued, adding that “unfortunately, rabbits can even die from extreme fright especially if they have underlying illness. They may also injure themselves attempting to flee.”

Cows are social animals, Lugones said, so loud noises could spook an entire herd, while horses are also prey species that can easily become startled by fireworks.

“It may be less understood how reptiles and birds respond to fireworks, but they too have stress responses, so precautions should be taken for them,” she said.

The key to helping your pet survive this frightening onslaught is being prepared, said Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Tags and microchips. Be sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with current identification tags, Kratt said. If your pet has a microchip, make sure your correct contact info is recorded with the vet clinic or shelter that implanted the chip.

That way, if your pet does escape into the night, you will be able to immediately call and alert the vet or shelter about their absence.

Exercise before dark. A tired dog is a calmer dog. A happy cat is a more relaxed cat, Kratt said. Fit in some extra playtime for your cats, and take dogs out for play and exercise well before dark. Such activities burn off extra energy, thus limiting anxiety later when it’s time to sleep.

Bring all pets indoors. Don’t leave your pet outside to suffer alone. Put a dog’s crate or bed in the quietest, most enclosed room possible, Kratt said.

“Keep windows and curtains closed to further muffle sounds, and take some time to see what works best for your dog, such as lowering the lights or covering the crate with a blanket,” he said.

Cats like to go high to feel secure, so give them a covered cozy cave that is elevated off the ground, like a hut on an indoor cat tree or in a closet.

Distract your pet. Provide lots of new toys and long-lasting chews and treats. Food puzzles may also keep them distracted from the unnerving noises.

Use calming aids. Many pets respond to “thunder” shirts or blankets that wrap them in a heavy, calming cocoon. Cats and dogs often enjoy smelling species-specific pheromones. Cats can wear collars with scents that mimic the pheromone mother cats produce to calm their kittens. Dogs respond to the scent of lactating female dogs, called appropriately “dog appeasing pheromone,” or DAP.

Use calming sounds. First, muffle sounds by closing curtains and doors near your pet. Calming music, or white noise like fans or television – but not too loud – can be used to provide comfortable, familiar sounds.

Humans must stay calm, too. If you aren’t fond of fireworks either, try to remain calm around your pet anyway, Kratt said. “Our pets may look to us to see how we are reacting and be influenced by our behavior,” he said. “Try not to react too strongly to fireworks or your pets’ distress.”

Use medication as a last resort. While there is nothing wrong with turning to your vet for calming medications, experts worry that pet owners might rely on that first, without doing the behavioral modification tips above. But if you have tried all these ideas and your furry friend is still in a panic, reach out to your vet for advice.

Keep animals away from your fireworks. If your pet isn’t bothered by the noise and you plan to set off your own fireworks, be sure to keep your pet inside and secured. Some dogs may “chase after the bright moving objects and are at risk to be burned or blinded in the process,” says Best Friends Animal Society.

In addition, many fireworks also contain “substances that are toxic if ingested,” so be sure to safely store your fireworks where a pet cannot find them.

The dangers for pets extend past exploding fireworks, Kratt said.

“The Fourth has some other risks for our pets, such as an abundance of unhealthy and accessible foods at parties, dangerous summer heat, and dangerous debris on the ground following fireworks displays,” Kratt said.

Before you let your pet loose in the yard the next day, check it carefully for leftover pieces and parts from exploded fireworks.

“Even if you didn’t set off fireworks yourself, debris can make its way into your yard, where curious animals may pick it up to play with or eat,” Kratt said.

Used and unused fireworks are toxic to pets, Lugones said.

“Depending on the chemicals they contain, fireworks can cause severe gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and foreign body obstruction,” she said. “They can also cause acute kidney failure, difficulty breathing, and seizures. If there’s any concern your pet has ingested fireworks, contact a veterinarian immediately.”

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5 New Year’s resolutions for your dog and cat | CNN

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You may be spending a good bit of time right now finalizing — and, of course, implementing — your resolutions for the new year. Congratulations! Focusing on a happy and healthy lifestyle is a huge investment in your future.

But have you thought about what might be optimal for your best friend and furry companion? Here are some new year’s resolutions experts say can benefit you and your pet.

If your pet went on an unplanned walkabout, would your neighbors be able to call you or bring them home? Identification tags are inexpensive and available at most pet stores. Even better: The more permanent form of identification, a microchip, cannot fall off or be removed and can be a lifesaver if your pet wanders farther from home.

America is in the midst of an obesity crisis, and it’s affecting our dogs and cats. Too many pets today are overweight, said Dr. Dana Varble, chief veterinary officer of the North American Veterinary Community.

“If your dog or cat was to speak to you, he or she might admit that they are getting too many treats. ‘It is getting awfully hard to catch my breath when we play ball and my hips and knees are starting to ache,’ your dog might say.

“Your cat might give you a dirty look for allowing the vet to check their weight, and will certainly blame any extra pounds on you. ‘The fact that you give in every time I yowl, purr, or rub your legs isn’t helping my weight problem,’ your cat might say,’” Varble added.

Instead of acquiescing to those plaintive meows or soulful eyes, Varble suggests reducing the amount of food you give at any one meal or feeding. Instead, provide a smaller amount at set times throughout the day to help your pet lose a few pounds.

Exercise is good for both you and your pet, Varble said. That’s easily achieved with a dog: Nearly every dog would benefit from at least two walks a day, or a good chase after a ball or Frisbee, she said.

“You need the fresh air, and your dog needs to be able to check out all the smells in the neighborhood, which keeps their minds busy and their body tired,” Varble said.

How do you exercise a cat? Some people put their fuzzy felines on a leash and go for a walk. But if that’s not for you, “find more interactive toys for your cat to chase,” Varble said. “Remember, toys are like prey. Your cat is still an ancient predator.”

Energize your cat by  enticing it to catch that

Interactive toys don’t have to be expensive. A toilet paper roll, a paper bag, a crinkled ball of foil or a string you trail behind you will excite the hunter in your domesticated kitty as much as the most expensive interactive toy.

Tie feathers to the end of a stick, swing it through the air and watch your cat leap.

And of course no cat can resist the allure of an empty box, especially one that turns out to have an unexpected treat or toy in it. Consider all the memes of cats sitting in boxes; even lions, tigers and other big cats find the habit irresistible.

Both dogs and cats can benefit from mental exercise as well. Food puzzles are a great way to keep your pet’s mind engaged. The internet is full of such items to purchase, but it’s also full of DIY examples you can easily make on your own.

Cut circles in the top of a shoebox and drop in treats for your cat to fish out. Roll some treats up in a towel for your dog to unravel. Cut small holes in a toilet paper roll, put treats inside and tape up the ends — voila, you have a rolling treat dispenser. Or do the same with a plastic bottle.

(Wouldn’t coming up with these ideas also be a good human brain game?)

You like to shower and style your hair, right? A good brushing stimulates blood flow to your scalp and distributes natural oils, making your hair shine with health. Your dog and cat benefit from daily brushing — and an occasional bath — too. (Your couch will also thank you.)

Take it a step further and brush your pet’s teeth. Yes, cats need their teeth brushed too. Start when your pet is a puppy or kitten and you’ll have no issues, but with some patience you can ease your adult pet into the process too, experts say.

Periodontal disease, which is inflammation of the gums and bone that support your pet’s teeth, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in dogs. And because the kidneys and liver filter bacteria from the mouth that’s circulating in the blood, those organs are especially vulnerable to damage.

“Following a good oral care routine, including brushing teeth and regular dental evaluation with your veterinarian, can prevent these serious consequences,” Varble said.

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