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Polo Ground, George Town, Penang

Polo Ground, George Town

The Polo Ground, within the western part of George Town proper, is a field located in front of Seri Mutiara, the official residence of the Governor of Penang. It is bounded by Sepoy Lines Road to its north and west, Residency Road along its eastern side and Western Road along its south.

The field has been in use since the late 19th. century, when British Army facilities were moved towards the vicinity. It is now used primarily for recreational and sports activities, as well as the Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta every February.

History

Polo Ground, George Town, Penang (1910s)

A 1910s postcard depicting the Empire Day celebrations at the Polo Ground, which included a military parade by British Army units stationed along Sepoy Lines Road.

The field was created towards the end of the 19th. century as the new parade ground for British Army units stationed in George Town. At the time, the British Army was in the process of relocating its barracks out of the crowded centre of George Town towards the western edges of the town.

While the Indian sepoys were housed in their barracks along Sepoy Lines Road, the Polo Ground was cleared and turned into a military parade ground substituting the Padang at The Esplanade in the heart of George Town.

Also, the Polo Ground, as its name implies, was used for polo matches and horse-riding activities during the colonial era. The horses were taken from the nearby Penang Turf Club. To this day, horses can be seen walking occasionally at the Polo Ground.

Polo Ground, George Town, Penang (1960s)

A Royal Australian Air Force helicopter at the Polo Ground in the 1960s. At the time, British and Commonwealth militaries were stationed in Malaya to combat the Malayan Communist insurgency and later, the Indonesian Confrontation.

Due to its proximity to the Penang General Hospital, the Polo Ground has been gazetted as an emergency landing pad for helicopters, enabling military helicopters to airlift casualties to the hospital.

Until the 1990s, when the Polo Ground was finally closed off to vehicles, the field was also a lovers' haunt, where drivers and motorcyclists would bring their lovers to the relatively secluded parts of the field in the evenings. On occasion, cars could be seen stuck in the small trenches surrounding the field, and drivers had to wait until the following morning for help.

Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Polo Ground, George Town, Penang

The Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta at the Polo Ground in 2016.

Today, the Polo Ground is being primarily used for recreational and sports activities, including football. More recently, it has been chosen as the venue for the annual Penang Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

References

  1. Cheah J. S., 2013. Penang 500 Early Postcards. Editions Didier Millet.
  2. http://www.penang-traveltips.com/polo-ground.htm
  3. http://www.penanghotairballoonfiesta.com/about.php
  4. http://mypenang.gov.my/itemprint.aspx?id=6708
  5. http://wongchunwai.com/2013/04/a-cowboy-town-that-was-old-penang/
  6. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/02/05/blowing-hot-and-cold-over-fiesta-dispute-over-venue-heats-up/

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