BOWLO WINDS DOWN
By TONY WHITE
GRAFTON City Services Bowling and Sporting Club in Kemp Street will cease operations within 12 to 18 months it was announced yesterday.
Owners, the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC), decided at a board meeting on Monday evening, the facility on the banks of the Clarence River, established on September 27, 1909, could no longer be sustained due to unprofitability.
The pending closure will directly affect 15 staff, some casual staff and over 300 registered lawn bowlers. Over 8350 people are registered with both clubs.
Since the GDSC amalgamated with the bowling and sporting club just over five years ago, GDSC general manager Arthur Lysaught said, with accruals, it had run at a trading loss in excess of $2.5million.
"When we took over the place five years ago, we took over the club's debts and accruals," Lysaught said. "And we spent $1.2million on refurbishments.
"With accruals, the loss since is over $2.5million.
"There have been problems, simple in reality, involving major parking problems and for the elderly ... it's a battle to access the facility.
"The board decided we just could not continue to run at a loss and made a long-term decision."
The bowling and sporting club will continue to operate until two new synthetic bowling greens and the infrastructure required at the GDSC on the corner of Mary and Fry streets is completed.
Mr Lysaught said the club was negotiating with three providers to construct the new greens and infrastructure which Continued: would include change rooms, toilets and a new outdoor bar to service members. Twilight and barefoot bowls for younger members are being considered.
"The earliest completion date would be February 2007 but with the infrastructure required it could take up to 18 months to be fully operational," Mr Lysaught said.
He yesterday informed staff at the Grafton City Services Bowling and Sporting Club of the future plan.
"About 15 staff are directly affected, casual bar staff already share between both clubs," Lysaught said. "We will do everything in our power, absolutely, to help the affected employees, hopefully back through the main club. There will, however, be some redundancies."
The men's and women's bowling executive met with Mr Lysaught and president Paul Cubbin at the GDSC yesterday afternoon.
"The board has been concerned for some time over the performance and cost of maintaining the site. We had to bite the bullet and bring them back here (main club)," Mr Cubbin said. "It was a decision made for the good of all our members."
Bowling and sporting men's bowling president Richard Bailie-Mace said he expected a backlash from a section of bowling members.
"It's a sad time, but it's not a tomorrow event," he said. "There was a backlash from men and women bowlers when we amalgamated and there is still an attitude of 'them and us'.
"I'm sure some will be volatile and say 'I told you so', but at least we still have somewhere to bowl, unlike other clubs that have closed completely."
Women's bowls president Norma Mawhirt said the closure was inevitable but agreed still having a bowling facility was a major bonus for members.
Mr Lysaught added the GDSC board had not yet decided what to do with the Kemp Street facility, valued at between $1 and $2 million, once it closed.
"There are a number of options, whether it is offered for sale, redeveloped or we take on a joint partner will be considered by the directors," he said.