Claudelands is a Waikato landmark, most recently redeveloped in 2007 by Hamilton City Council. Driven by the goal of creating a venue the Hamilton community would be proud of, the newly-developed Claudelands reopened in 2011.
Claudelands - the past
The Claudelands site was originally inhabited by Ngati Wairere on an area renowned as native bird hunting ground – also known as ‘Te Papanui’ (a bird snarer’s seat).
In 1886 a group of Hamilton residents, known as the Claudelands Syndicate, rented more than 80 acres from the Government and on expiry of the lease, purchased the land.
During their tenure, the syndicate leased the land to the South Auckland Racing Club. Ti-tree was cleared, a course laid and the first race meeting was held in 1887 when 1800 pounds was put through the tote. The area was used primarily as a race course, but also leased to other organisations for their activities.
1887 also saw the relocation of The Grandstand to Claudelands. The building was originally built in 1878 in Cambridge for the Cambridge Jockey Club before being purchased by the Hamilton Racing Club and moved to Claudelands. Since then it has been moved to two other locations within the Claudelands site (in 1926 and 2008 when it was restored for use as a function space).
The Waikato Agricultural and Pastoral Association bought the site in 1903 and the South Auckland Racing Club continued to operate, but in 1902 the now Hamilton Racing Club decided to look for a new venue and subsequently sold its interests in the showground to the Waikato Trotting Club.
During the 1920s the site was used by the trotting club, the A&P Associations annual shows and gymkhanas, the Polo Association, greyhound racing and the Hamilton Motor Cycle Club, among others. Improvements to the site continued, and in the 1990s it was bought by Hamilton City Council to develop as a public recreational facility.
The annual Winter Show was moved out to Claudelands in 1967 and began a long association with the Claudelands venue. 1984 also saw the very first Waikato Home Show at Claudelands Showgrounds (as the venue was known at the time) and the four day show, which has grown to become New Zealand’s largest home and garden show, attracted over 12,000 visitors.
Today Claudelands is host to a multitude of music, entertainment, sporting and corporate events. For the first time in the city’s history, Hamilton has a purpose-built facility capable of attracting a wide range of international events, and patrons will no longer have to travel to the larger centres to enjoy them.