Ringwood Little Athletics began its career on the 10th October 1969 when the Ringwood Lions Club conducted a meeting offering the Ringwood community the chance to establish an athletic environment for its younger people.
The first competition was held in December 1969 at the No. 1 Oval at East Ringwood Reserve. The Centre consisted of 1054 registered athletes spread over ten clubs which represented our local schools. The oval was marked out with two six lane straights inside an unlaned circular track. Field games were held in designated areas scattered around and outside the oval.
The initial clubs were: East Ringwood, Eastwood, Greenwood (based on Ringwood Primary School in Greenwood Avenue), Norwood, Ringwood Heights, Mullum, OLS (based on Our Ladys Schools at Ringwood and East Ringwood), Southwood, Heathmont and Yarra Valley.
Competition was offered only to U8 to U12 children with three events per age group held each morning. (A vast difference to later years when 8-9 events were being offered due to an open field event policy for U9 upwards.)
In 1970, the Centre moved competition to Mullum Oval, and continued in this location for five years. It was a grass track which meant a dedicated team of parents had to mark out the track each week.
Innovations that were introduced in the years 1970-1974 included: An electronic timing system for use on the two straight inside tracks, which greatly assisted in providing accurate times for the closer finishes. And a circular aluminum high jump bar was developed by Alan Kleeburg. It replaced the triangular bar then common in use. The new bar, without any sharp corners enabled more children to participate in this event without any fear of being hurt upon landing.
1975/76 saw RLAC moved to its present location at Proclamation Park, Ringwood and on to an all weather track. As a result, many new Centre records were established. 1975/76 also saw the introduction of Open field events for the U9’s and upwards.
Under 13’s competition was introduced for the first time in 1984/85 season
Under 14’s and Under 15’s competition were introduced in 1985/86
Under 7’s were introduced in 1986/87 season.
Under 6’s and U16’s competition was introduced at the start of the 2008/09 season to accommodate the growing interest in Little Athletics. Under 16’s was seen as an extra year in which older athletes could stay involved in Saturday morning athletics even though that age group did not compete in the various VLAA regional championships.
In 1994 RLAC made the front cover of the Melbourne A-K white pages with a photograph of some of our younger athletes. A great recognition for the Centre.
By 1995, five clubs were left out of the original ten. Registrations had settled to an average of 300, compared to the 1054 in the first year- a reflection of natural demographics shifting in the Ringwood area over 25 years. The Clubs were Heathmont, Ringwood Heights, Mullum, Maroondah and Southwood – and each remains as teams to this day.
During the 1995/96 season, Proclamation Park received its first red rubber track. This meant that during construction, the weekly competitions were held at either Croydon or Doncaster tracks. It meant a lot of running around but well worth it when we resumed at Proclamation Park, after the Christmas break, on our brand new track.
1999/2000 season saw the re start of electronic timing (first used in 1970 – believe it or not!!) for the front straight at RLAC. It meant less volunteer timekeepers were required as the two banks of timekeepers with stop watches was now reduced to one..
During the late 90’s the eastern embankment area just past the finish line, began its transformation to a tiered seating area thanks largely to a lot of hard work by parents over numerous working bee’s. The shade sails were added in progressive seasons to provide the Centre with an excellent, shady viewing area that was also utilized by some of the Clubs for their base.
The first grandstand was built at the southern end of the track providing much needed shelter and another viewing location. The stand was named after Peter Oliver for his many years of service to Ringwood Little Athletics.
During the late 2000’s the large grandstand began construction – again to much effort of the Executive committee of RLAC in conjunction with the Ringwood Athletics Club and the Maroondah Council. It has provided even more excellent viewing of the track, much needed storage for equipment underneath, a weather proof shelter and a new base for the Clubs previously set up under the shade sails. Proclamation Park now had the best athletic facilities in the Maroondah area for competitors and spectators alike.
Season 2007/2008 saw the introduction of timing gates at the Centre. This meant that times were now recorded to a 100th of a second. Many new Centre records for track events were established as a result.
Also during season 2007/08 the track surface at Proclamation Park was again renewed, along with some drainage works and an extension of the front straight. This meant we could use the same finishing line for straight track events without having to move the timekeepers and equipment.
The track reconstruction also meant that Ringwood Little Athletics once again transferred competitions to the neighboring Croydon track. Ringwood’s equipment was transferred to the Croydon track and housed in a shipping container which meant extra setting up and packing up complications for the parents.
Season 2008/09 saw Ringwood Little Athletics back at Proclamation Park competing on the brand new track. A grand opening of the new track was held in the early part of the season with the Mayor and other dignitaries attending a special ceremony.
2009/2010 saw the 40th season of Ringwood Little Athletics Centre.
More recently in Season 2016/17, Ringwood has once again had their track redeveloped. The track was resurfaced, as was the ‘D’ area where athletes participate in high jump events. Our long jump pits were also modernised and four separate pits were created. In addition, Ringwood saw the addition of the Tony Lethbridge pavilion, an amazing new building providing RLAC with modern canteen, multi-purpose room and toilets. The Grand Opening also saw the main grandstand be named in honour of Ann Fraser, a long time friend of Ringwood Little Athletics.