The softball complex to be built in memory of a young woman who tragically died in 2009 is on pace to open next spring.
The group behind the Ashley Neufeld Softball Complex has raised about half of its goal to build the four diamonds on Parker Boulevard between Eighth Street North and 11th Street North.
While the $1.3-million project includes four diamonds along with a canteen and washrooms, project chairman Brett Turner said the focus right now is to get just the diamonds finished — about $800,000
"There will be equipment on it next week, finishing off the grading and we hope to start building the diamonds in June," Turner said.
Ideally, the group would like to build the remaining two diamonds next year if the money is in place, at which point the facility itself will then generate revenue to pay for the canteen and washrooms.
The Westman Softball Association along with the Orthodox Leagues, Brandon Slo-Pitch League and the Westman Old-Timers have been behind the fundraising efforts.
While on a stargazing trip in North Dakota, Ashley Neufeld, the park’s namesake, and two fellow Dickinson State University softball teammates drowned after their SUV sank into a farmer’s watering hole.
Individual donations, barbecues, socials and big-ticket donations from service clubs and corporations have helped keep the project alive over the years.
Turner said Neufeld may not remain the park’s namesake if a large naming rights agreement is made, but no such deal has come up.
"We’ve always taken the approach that if we could get a sponsorship that was big enough, the facility would carry that name and one of the diamonds would carry Ashley’s name, but at this point we haven’t got anybody that big," Turner said.
Meanwhile, the city’s teams are feeling the pinch with few places to play in Brandon.
"There’s been juggling going on, there’s been talk of resizing diamonds to accommodate adults, it’s a problem," Turner said.
Brandon has a long history of holding events from the mid-1990s to about 2004 when Curran Park was still available.
"We almost had a western, provincial, or national event held here every year, in fact there were years we had more than one," Turner said and said the complex will allow those events to return to Brandon.
A groundbreaking ceremony will take place in mid-July, but a date hasn’t been set yet.
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