The Basin Reserve’s place in Wellington history was sealed in 1884, when a deed was signed gifting the reserve to the “inhabitants of the city of Wellington”. While cricket was the driver to the Basin Reserve becoming a sports’ ground, it was not alone in its use of the field.
From the 1880s to 1900, when Wellington’s population grew by 80,000 people, the Basin Reserve became the city’s social hub. With it’s central location and large field, which could host two full-size soccer pitches, the Basin was the ideal venue for a range of community events. Although cricket was the first sport to be played on the Reserve, it was followed closely by many others.
The Basin has always featured on Wellington’s events calendar, but it was at its busiest in the 1950s. During the decade, the ground hosted the usual range of cricket matches alongside events like:
- The January 1954 Empire Title boxing fight between local man, Barry Brown, and South African Olympic gold medalist, Gerald Dreyer. Ringside tickets cost 15 shillings.
- In 1951 the National Athletics Championships were held at the Basin for the second time. Throughout the history of athletics at the ground, many New Zealand and international stars have competed; from Les Mills and Jean Wilson to Peter Snell and Yvette Williams.
- An eagerly-anticipated contest occurred in August 1953 when a rugby league match was played between Wellington and an American All-Stars team. The people of Wellington loved the American team’s gear, thinking they looked like Flash Gordon.
- The American influence continued in 1957 when the infamous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team played their traditional rivals the Hawaiian Surfriders at the Basin.
- A basketball court wasn’t event the strangest thing installed at the ground in 1957: Sam Snyder brought his famed Water Follies to the ground and full swimming and diving pools were set up.
Today, the Basin Reserve maintains its place as one of the most popular cricket grounds in the world and still manages to balance that with a range of other events. From school cross country races and the home ground of the Old Boys University Rugby Club, to Wellington Phoenix and All Black trainings, the Basin remains one of New Zealand’s premier sports’ grounds.