ILT Stadium to be renamed in Wendy Frew tribute
In a historic first, ILT Stadium Southland will be temporarily renamed in honour of local sporting legend Wendy Frew.
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel captain will lead her team for the final time on home turf in next Wednesday’s ANZ Premiership Elimination Final – and she will do it at the aptly named Wendy Frew Stadium.
After an unrivalled 16 seasons with the southern franchise, including its predecessor the Southern Sting, Frew announced earlier this month she will retire from playing netball at the end of the Steel’s 2018 campaign. She’s racked up an impressive 174 elite games so far.
ILT Stadium Southland general manager Nigel Skelt said it felt right to honour Frew in this way.
“This is Wendy’s home and she’s played all of her netball here since day one. Without question, the venue is the hub of our Southland sporting community and the heart, determination and values shown here also reflect Wendy’s life and the way she operates,” he said.
“She’s been a fantastic role model, not just for netball but sport in general across the province and New Zealand, so we think this is an incredibly fitting tribute for the dedication, work and loyalty she’s always shown our community.
“This is the first time in our history we have taken this bold step and we wouldn’t be able to achieve that without the support of our naming rights partner the Invercargill Licensing Trust and we are extremely grateful for that.”
ILT chief executive Chris Ramsay said the Trust didn’t hesitate when approached with the grand plan.
“Wendy Frew epitomises everything great about Southlanders, is a wonderful ambassador for our city and this honour really is testament to that,” he said.
Frew said she was “humbled”.
“How do you actually put into words what a tribute like this means? It’s very humbling,” she said.
“For me, it is and always has been about the team – that doesn’t change going into this game. I’m just absolutely stoked to be taking the court with my team-mates and plan to just embrace it all.”
Skelt expected “an incredible amount of emotion” as the passionate netball fraternity bid farewell to Frew as a player.
“We know this is just the end of one chapter in her sporting journey. She is an extended part of our stadium family and we’re excited to see what the future holds for her.”
While the Steel’s opponent won’t be known until after the final ANZP round robin game tomorrow night (August 1), Skelt expected Southlanders to come out in force for the must-win final. Victory would secure Steel a spot in the Grand Final against the Pulse in Palmerston North on August 12 – and a shot at defending the title it triumphantly won last year.
“This is the challenge going out to Southland – that we fill every seat that’s available in this stadium as a tribute, not just to Wendy but to the whole Steel franchise. It’s about a team and, while she’s obviously an integral part of it, there’s a wonderful effort that’s been put in by everyone to reach this point,” Skelt said.
“Our Steel is unbeaten here in the ANZ Premiership and we want to keep it that way. We have a fortress and it’s well named because that’s exactly what it is and we’ll see that again next Wednesday night.”