Whanganui softball identities have pitched in to support a move to change the name of Gonville's softball park.
A proposal to formally change the name to Whanganui Ballpark has been submitted to Whanganui District Council in an effort to support future aspirations of the sport.
The proposal was put forward by the Whanganui Softball Association, which is looking to change the name that's on Whanganui District Council records, after taking over the premises more than seven years ago.
The ballpark, at 29 Puriri St, is recorded as the Braves Ballpark with council and is the namesake of the Braves Softball Club.
It was in the mid-1960s that one of the club founders Don Brewer, along with the club, took out a lease for the land to create a ballpark.
Braves Softball Club life member Ross Francis said the land was originally gifted to council and designated as a reserve before the club took it on, albeit it didn't initially resemble one.
• 2019 Whanganui Sports Awards Friday night
• Nominations open for Whanganui Sports Awards
• Whanganui Sports Awards: Urgent call for nominations as Friday cut-off date looms
• Sport Whanganui round up of college sport focusing on Whanganui High School
"It wasn't exactly a reserve. It was just a rubbish dump covered in trees.
"It was a huge amount of work in the early days."
After clearing the section and flatten the land, a softball diamond was dug in at the bottom of the park.
Cricket: Wanganui enter Chapple Cup without three veterans
"Don used his knowledge and people he knew that allowed us to do it," Francis said.
"We could have never done it financially if we had to pay everybody."
Over the years, the grounds have been also known as King George V Memorial Park, the Puriri St Recreational Reserve, and simply the Puriri St Reserve.
Francis said the Braves Softball Club itself was started by a "group of young guys", which he was part of, who approached Brewer about creating a team.
Brewer had recently returned from Auckland where he had been heavily involved with softball clubs, some of which would later make him a life member.
The Braves would go on to be regarded as one of the top softball clubs in the country from the 1960s to 1980s, with many top players running out for Braves or representing other Whanganui clubs.
"Braves and Aces were the two dominant clubs here and we've had some really good softball players go through those clubs," Francis said.
"In the early days, there wasn't one top club in New Zealand that [Braves] hadn't beaten so we had a pretty good team right through."
Francis said it was the local rivalries that kept softball strong in Whanganui throughout the peak years.
"We had top softball here as long as we had our tournament and because we got top class teams here it gave us an opportunity, even when we were slowing down softball-wise as a city, because we tended to gather the best players here."
It was around the early 2000s that participation in softball began to dwindle in Whanganui, with changes made at the top level by Softball New Zealand also contributing, according to Francis.
"All those top Wellington clubs we used to play against, even they've all gone by the way, and I think things changed a bit and some of the outer areas like Whanganui got left behind or they just didn't bother about us," Francis said.
"The top class guys who specialise in positions could leave Whanganui and go and play for big places; a lot of Whanganui guys have gone overseas also to places like the US.
"Softball just sort of rolled along since then and it's a lot to do with people who have the time and ability to put in to organising it.
"Our last good softball played in Whanganui was played by the older generation, and we just didn't have the younger guys coming through."
Although the Braves hadn't been able to put a side together in recent years, the club has never completely closed down.
Whanganui Softball Association secretary Lindsay Edwards, who put the name change request to council on behalf of the association, holds a similar view to Francis and said the sport needed to be family-driven in order for the next generation to take an interest.
After decades of the Braves holding the lease to the ballpark, it was taken over by the association in March 2011.
Costs related to maintenance levies became too much for the Braves to manage and the lease was relinquished.
In the years before the association took over the lease, two more softball diamonds were installed at the park in a joint project by both the association and Braves.
In 2012 the association purchased the ballpark clubrooms from council, meaning the grounds could come together as one entity and, since taking over, the association has made moves to repair and upgrade the grounds.
"We've completed the outfield fences and we've redone the fencing on the bottom diamond," Edwards said.
"All the structure that was down there had rotted because of age and it was a health hazard, so through funding we were able to do the repairs.
"We've now got an international diamond, in that the measurements are the correct size and the outfield fence is now permanent.
"For so long we had it held up by waratahs and it still did the job, but now it's permanent and very good."
Edwards said recently there's been activity and growth in the local softball scene.
"There's been a move from the Braves men who have put together a team of guys, like a telephone team that they can call on in the weekend who want to play softball, and they're going over to Palmerston [North].
"That has grown the Athletic Club and Mustangs Club who now both have teams that travel over there, and there's an Athletic women's team that wanted to play, essentially just like the Braves men have done, and they're taking a women's side over too."
Some of those sides also take part in games in Whanganui on Wednesday and Friday nights which can attract up to 100 players.
Edwards said it's all part of a long-term plan to bring a strong competition back to Whanganui.
"We've got a group of kids coming through because people are starting to slowly put their hands up, and these kids are getting bigger.
"I would think probably within two years' time we'd have a competition back up and running in Whanganui.
"It's still alive and well, and it's getting stronger."
The request to change the ballpark's name is to make it more inclusive and known as a location for all clubs and teams, according to Edwards.
"All of us grew up as it being Braves Ballpark but unfortunately that had a downside as well with other clubs going through because it's a Whanganui facility and they ask why we are calling it that, particularly once we took over ownership.
"That came through from the younger ones playing softball and it will take a while for people to start calling it the Whanganui Ballpark but it's a start.
"I think the 'Whanganui Ballpark' reflects where it sits now, and it doesn't take anything away from the history of the Braves club.
"Wherever we can, we want to preserve that because it's part of our history and it's the same as the Aces club and others which formed parts of our history."
Part of the request put to council included a letter from Te Runanga O Tupoho which has no objections to the ballpark being formally renamed to include Whanganui in the title.
The name change request will be put out for public notification and letters will be sent to potentially affected parties such as emergency services.
Edwards said another name change was in the works once the ballpark itself has been formally renamed.
"The plan is to have that bottom diamond named the Brewer Diamond, or the Don Brewer Diamond," Edwards said.
"We want to acknowledge that because everyone in softball knows that was his baby, and with the Braves club and what they did to get that facility there and create it from nothing, and now arguably it's one of the best viewing diamonds in the country."