Central Park Stawell is the home of the Stawell Gift, run annually each Easter.
Stawell is located in the Northern Grampians region of Victoria, 237km north-north-west of Melbourne.
The Stawell Gift dates back to 1878 and has been conducted at Central Park since 1898. It is regarded as Australia’s richest footrace, with the 120m Gift the main events on the program. Participants are handicapped based on their ability, with slower athletes given a larger ‘mark’ than faster athletes, representing how far less than the advertised distance they will run. The Stawell Gift has a unique atmosphere, including a bookies ring, and is embraced by the town of 6,000, with the population swelling each Easter. Plaques identifying previous Gift winners are part of the footpath in the main street.
The venue features two sprint straights on the in field of the track, run in the opposite direction to circular events. The circular track features a short home straight, with a sweeping back straight.
The venue is known for its pristine grass track surface, which is prepared for use once a year for athletics. Outside of the Stawell Gift, Central Park is used for local cricket and AFL matches. Preparation of the track generally commences in February each year, with other sporting activities ceasing after the early March Labour Day Public Holiday. For the two weeks prior to the Gift, the track is rolled daily, producing a firm, uniform surface underfoot.
The venue is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database, with its cast iron gates and grandstands considered significant Federation architecture, as well as the historical and social significance the venue has to the state of Victoria. The Stawell Gift Hall of Fame is located at the venue, while the event was recognised in 2019 by World Athletics Heritage Plaque.
The venue is managed by Northern Grampians Shire Council.
The venue was the runner-up in Australia’s Favourite Grass Track competition in 2021.