Downey Park, a sentimental home for 21 former and current Olympians is under threat leading to Australian softball players being urged to review Brisbane City Council’s Enoggera Creek Sport and Recreation Precinct Plan with community consultation coming to a close on Friday 30 April 2021.
Brisbane City Council’s plan includes a drastic change to Downey Park which includes reducing 16 diamonds down to three which not only drastically impacts participation in the Brisbane region, but also presents a threat to participant and spectator safety.
The venue is home to the Brisbane Softball Association who facilitate competition for a number of local Clubs including Panthers Softball who boast a playing list including two Olympians Stacey Porter and Justine Smethurst, both in line for selection to the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games whilst still competing in their local tournaments.
Panthers Softball Club secretary, Leigh Martyn, encouraged all current users of the heritage-listed Downey Park women’s sporting precinct to consider what the proposed plans mean for the future of women’s sport, and softball in particular, as Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic bid gathers momentum.
“Downgrading the available softball facilities at Downey Park from 16 diamonds to three at the proposed new location, including demolishing Australia’s first international standard diamond, poses a very real risk that Brisbane Softball Association will no longer be able to support current player numbers and we will see a decrease in the numbers of young girls and women playing our game,” Martyn said.
“Brisbane is a real chance at hosting the 2032 Olympics and softball is a true contender for inclusion, and lack of international-standard facilities in our city’s heart could result in games being played elsewhere or softball not being included as a sport at all.”
Porter, the current captain of the Australian Women’s team the Travelodge Aussie Spirit, says the proposal from Brisbane City Council could be a blow for softball’s inclusion for a potential home Olympic Games.
The Travelodge Aussie Spirit are one of the most successful teams in Australian Olympic history having medalled at every Games the sport has been included in, Porter having won Silver in 2004 and Bronze in 2008.
“Competing at an Olympics is like no other experience,” said Porter, who is currently preparing for her third Olympic appearance.
“I was quite shocked when we found out we’d been pulled from the Olympic movement [in 2012]. I certainly felt for all the kids and the up-and-comers, there’s a chunk of people that fell off after that.”
“We need to do everything we can to ensure softball continues in our community. Fighting to keep our existing facilities, or at least facilities of the same calibre as we have now, is essential to maintaining participation in softball.”
Martyn says it is integral to the future of Brisbane Softball Association, and indeed softball in Queensland and Australia overall, that people have their say on Brisbane City Council’s draft plan.
“We need to maintain our facilities in Brisbane. By getting involved and having a say, we can secure softball’s future by ensuring our youth continue to have access to watching and even playing side by side with players like Stacey, that is incredibly inspiring for young girls.”
“Our sport is so unique in having Olympians and Australian representatives still actively competing in our local competition, the proposed changes to Downey Park could see that never happen again.”
Ross Symonds, Chief Executive Officer of Softball Queensland queried the proposed plan from Brisbane City Council.
“The draft plan does not quite make sense as all current sport & recreation clubs and association are being displaced from their current location in some form,” said Symonds.
“Under the proposed changes, the traditional Downey Park users being the women’s sports of softball and hockey will be the big losers with less fields, clubhouses and face significant logistical issues.
“The Council’s consultation process with the user groups has been less than ideal with no studies provided to justify the proposed plan and addressing why so many changes were required. Surely it would be more cost effective to upgrade or replace current run-down facilities in their current locations.”
Both Softball Queensland and Softball Australia have approached Brisbane City Council with softballers across to country asked to show their support by digitally signing an online petition addressing the detrimental changes to Downey Park, the petition can be signed here.
Comments on the draft plan can also be recorded by completing Brisbane City Council’s online survey.
Responses will help shape the planning and future staging of works for this well-used precinct, home to a range of sporting, recreation and community activities.
A simple step-by-step guide has been developed by Brisbane Softball Association to show your support in their campaign, please click here for more information.