LOCAL SPORTS: Origins, background of Grand Forks sports facilities' names
Kraft Memorial Stadium is like a second home for Grand Forks baseball players from the time the weather warms in the spring until the end of July.
Kraft Memorial Stadium is in big letters on the back side of the ball park’s grandstand. Kraft Field is in larger letters above the scoreboard in left-center field. And yet, when more than 30 Grand Forks American Legion players were asked what Kraft Field stands for, the initial response was silence.
The first answer was by catcher Kaleb Binstock. “It’s named after someone special, I know that,” he said.
“We always say we’re going to Kraft. That’s what we know it as. Everybody knows where Kraft is. You come here, you see the field, walk by the signs and you just get used to it. You take (the name) for granted.”
For several local facilities where organized sports are played, the names they bear are because of funds donated by corporations or civic groups. But there also are several facilities named after people, some of whom time has forgotten.
For the record, Kraft Field is named after the late Harold “Pinky” Kraft. It was Kraft who revived baseball at UND in 1956 after the school went 36 years without a program. Kraft coached UND baseball for 26 years. He is a member of the Collegiate Baseball Hall of Fame.
Kraft Field came into being in 1986. Previously, the park district had a field on the current Kraft site, but with only portable bleachers for seating, no rest rooms or concessions. UND had a field on the western edge of campus that was lost to expanding classroom facilities. UND and the park district pooled resources for the upgraded facility.
“Pinky was heavily involved in baseball, both with UND and the local youth baseball programs,” said Bill Palmiscno, the current Grand Forks park director. “It was very fitting to have the field named for him.”
One Royals legion player did have a handle on the origin of the name. “It’s from Brian’s family,” said Chaise Anderson, referring to Pinky Kraft’s son, Brian, who is still active in local baseball. “I knew his dad coached at UND.”
So what’s in a name? Here are some of the backgrounds on the local grounds where people play.
Abbott Sports Complex
The facility, located near the Grand Forks Park District office, has seen a face lift in recent years. It was a longtime home to six tennis courts until, in 2008, the area was converted into three outdoor basketball courts while retaining two tennis courts.
Palmiscno said the facility is named after Homer Abbott, who in the early 1950s was the first recreation director in Grand Forks and later was superintendent of the Grand Forks Park and Recreation Department. Abbott died in 1979.
While most parks are named after people, corporations or service clubs, Apollo Park has more of an out-of-this-world background.
The facility, located west of Red River High School, is home primarily to youth baseball and softball leagues, as well as UND and high school softball teams. It is named after the Apollo space program of the 1960s.
“I was in high school when it came about, so I don’t know exactly why they came up with that name,” Palmiscno said. “I guess people thought it was a fitting name at the time.”
The south-end facility is home to hundreds of youth soccer players. Palmiscno said the land was owned by the Bringewatt family in Grand Forks. The family donated it to the Grand Forks Park District with the intention of it being developed into a neighborhood park.
“They had no connection to any sports that I know of,” Palmiscno said. “But the need was there for some small soccer fields in town. The soccer association asked if we could do anything. We had the land, so we turned some of it into soccer fields.”
The facility, named after Cliff Cushman and located next to Red River High School, is home for high school football games and track meets in Grand Forks.
Cushman, a 1956 Central High School graduate, was silver medalist in the 400 hurdles in the 1960 Olympics. After falling in the hurdles in the 1964 U.S. Olympic trials and failing to qualify for the team, Cushman wrote a famous letter to the youth of Grand Forks about never giving up.
Cushman, a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, was killed when his airplane was shot down on a mission over North Vietnam in 1966. His legend is kept alive by the annual Grand Forks intracity football game, called the Cushman Classic.
“Our football coaches always tell us about him before every Cushman Classic,” Binstock said.
Gambucci Arena-Purpur Arena
The indoor ice hockey areas, located just east of the Grand Forks Park District office, honor two of the biggest names in Grand Forks hockey.
Clifford “Fido” Purpur, a Grand Forks native, was the first North Dakotan to play in the NHL, with a career in pros in the 1930s. He returned home to help rejuvenate hockey in Grand Forks, coaching from the park board level to UND. He’s in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and a recipient of the North Dakota Rough Rider award.
Sergio “Serge” Gambucci, who died this past April, led Grand Forks Central to titles in the first 10 North Dakota state high school hockey tournaments. His Central teams had a 258-38 record in his 15 seasons as a coach. Gambucci is in five halls of fame, including the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ray Richards Golf Course
The 9-hole course, located along DeMers Avenue south of the UND campus, is named after Richards, a 1906 UND graduate, according to Pete Johnson, executive associate vice president of UND media relations.
Richards became a petroleum engineer in Oklahoma. Richards donated some of his family’s farm land for the course, which opened in 1968. The family farmhouse on the land was converted into the course’s original clubhouse.
Snookie Register Tennis Complex
Located by Century Elementary School, the six-court complex is named in honor of longtime tennis supporter Snookie Register, whose family helped finance the project.
“Snookie is and always has been a great tennis supporter,” said Greg LaDouceur, president of the Grand Forks Tennis Association at the time the facility was constructed. “Her children and her grandchildren have been (high school) players.”
The name of the facility was a surprise to her at the grand opening. “The idea came from her husband, Cash,” LaDouceur said. “He approached us about what it would take to have the complex named in honor of his wife.”
Lynn Stauss is a famous name in East Grand Forks. But the baseball park, which was built in 1963, is named after his father, Albert Stauss.
“My dad was instrumental in helping acquire the land, getting the ballpark built and getting lights for it,” the East Grand Forks mayor said. “And he helped with other youth sports. So I guess the people thought it should be named after him.”
When Adolph “Pete” Ulland died in 1990, the 91-year-old former mail carrier who never married left more than $600,000 to the Grand Forks Park District.
About $85,000 of that was spent to help buy an 80-acre tract in south Grand Forks. That facility is home to Grand Forks adult softball leagues. From the original plan for 10 diamonds, there are now 16 on the site that is named in Ulland’s honor.
“We used to be all over Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, finding fields to play,” former Grand Forks softball commissioner Jim Hanley said. “Scheduling was a nightmare. Now it is all in one place. It was a tremendous gift.”
Within Ulland Complex is the Linda Jeffrey Memorial Eight Plex. The group of diamonds is named in honor of Jeffrey, a longtime member of the city softball commission who helped introduce women’s slowpitch softball to Grand Forks.