'Kick in the guts': Bowlers devastated by club's closure
UPDATE 3.35PM: BALLINA RSL Club chief executive Bill Coulter said he wants to apologise to members for finding out on social media their beloved bowls club would be closing.
Mr Coulter said the announcement of the closure of its RSL Canal Rd facility as a bowling club was mistakenly posted on the club's Facebook account on Tuesday.
"It was an unfortunate situation and we apologise," he said.
"Today we met with various groups including staff and bowlers about the process."
Mr Coulter said while he could understand members being upset about the club folding, he said it had been in the red for some time.
"The bowling club has been suffering significant losses and we have been reporting to members over the past few years," he said.
"When you suffer losses like $250,000 last year and upwards of nearly a million dollars over the last six years or so, we had to make changes, we don't want the 20,000 members of our primary facility at River St to suffer."
Mr Coulter said the board has also agreed to save all the staff jobs and offer bowling members financial support by paying their fees to join another club.
"We will provide financial support to bowling members who want to play bowls at another venue," he said.
"We want them to keep playing the game they love."
UPDATE 12.55pm: A REGULAR bowler at Ballina RSL Bowling Club, Patrick Kearney, said everyone at the troubled club is devastated by the news of its impending closure.
Mr Kearney, a member of the Sandflies bowling team, said the RSL director announced it on social media instead of having the courtesy to be contacted directly.
"We will look after our members unlike the RSL directors who have kicked us in the guts," he said.
"No-one from the RSL in Ballina would talk to us or reply to calls and emails, they were too gutless.
"They reckon the club lost $250,000 but that's because they put it on the back-burner for three years.
"The place has fallen apart for lack maintenance."
However, Mr Kearney said he wanted to acknowledge the club staff, whom he said were fantastic.
"I want to thank the club staff and the greenkeeper who have all done an excellent job," he said.
"The RSL should take their hats off to them."
A bowler for 35 years, Alby Waldron, 67, said it's a real shame Ballina RSL Bowling Club is closing.
A life and original member of the bowls team Ballina Sandflies, Mr Waldron said he usually play sat least once a week family-friendly club, mainly on a Sunday.
"I play in the fives," he said.
"It's a nice little club, it's all family it's not like those bigger clubs where you sit by yourself and talk to nobody."
Mr Waldron said people need to know that while the club was in the red for $250,000, about $150,000 was to replace the club's air-conditioning.
But he reckons you have to look ahead and stay positive.
"The Sandflies will stick together and look for different clubs to play at."
Original story: THE Ballina RSL Bowling Club will cease operations on Tuesday June 11.
Ballina RSL Board Chairman Blue McNally, said that the decision by the Board of Directors to cease operation at the RSL Canal Road facility as a bowling club was not made lightly.
"It is a sad day for our bowling club members. With support from the wider RSL Club membership we have applied much energy, financial injections and resources over the past 15 years but in the end the bowling club could just not trade profitably," Mr McNally said.
The bowling club has experienced declining patronage and operational losses over the past two decades with significant losses in the past six years. The bowling club recorded an operating loss of $251,000 in the last financial year despite the RSL Club investing significant funds and resources to keep it operational. This work also included working closely with ClubsNSW, independent financial advisors and its members to explore reasonable options.
"This has been a difficult decision but injecting further resources and funds is not sustainable and would ultimately impact the overall viability of the RSL Club and its services to members now and into the future," he said.
"We have continued to communicate with bowling club members to help them understand the financial situation. They are aware that despite exhaustive business and marketing efforts, the facility was not attracting the level of patronage required for it to be financial sustainable."
No jobs will be lost when the bowling club ceases operation in June. All employees are already part of the wider Ballina RSL staff roster and will continue to work at the River Street club should they choose to. The facility's only green keeper is a local contractor who provides lawn and maintenance services to other clients in the community. The RSL Board will continue to support him to secure additional work in the area.
There are currently approximately 140 male bowlers and 62 female bowlers and whilst not all of these bowlers are active, they are all a part of the Ballina bowls community.
Ballina RSL is providing all current members of the bowling club with financial support to join their choice of other facilities across the region for the next 12 months.
Mr McNally acknowledged the importance of the local community.
"Members and the wider community have been loyal and highly committed to the facility and will be playing an integral role in determining the site's future use," he said.
"The Ballina RSL Board will liaise with members and community stakeholders to assist us in directing the short and longer term use of the site. It is so important that we provide the community with a venue that best meets its changing needs," he said.