Bright future for bowlers
It’s said that, when it comes to real estate, there are three things that matter: location, location, location.
And a prime setting is something the Mann Park Lawn Bowing Club – situated in White Rock on North Bluff Road just west of Centennial Park – has always had.
Trouble was, nobody knew.
For decades, the 150-member strong lawn-bowling club – one of two on the Peninsula – has been hidden behind a row of tall hedges that lined North Bluff Road, acting as a buffer between the club’s playing greens and the street.
And while it added a certain element of the privacy to the well-taken-care-of clubhouse – built in 1959 – it had the adverse affect of being out of the public eye.
It’s a problem no longer, however.
After years of discussions with the City of White Rock – which owns the strip of land in which the hedges were planted – the tall hedges were removed last August, and replaced with grass and smaller trees. Suddenly visible to passersby on the street, the club, which for years thrived despite being tucked away behind foliage, felt an almost immediate boost.
“The greatest advantage we have this year over previous years is that people can see us,” said club president Bryant Avery, adding that members were “extremely grateful” to White Rock council and staff for agreeing to the hedge removal.
“For us, almost instantly, we began to get inquiries from people who didn’t even know we were here – and some of these people have been residents here for 20 years.
“Within a couple of days, we have some new members.”
The hedge removal was one of a handful of recent improvements to the club. The club – through membership dues and other fundraising measures – also spent $20,000 to re-level the turf at the north-end of the playing surface; roots from the hedges had encroached on the surface.
As well, in the last few years, the club has spent thousands of dollars to upgrade the clubhouse’s sound system, re-do the deck and fix a few leaks, and bring the electrical system back up to code.
And both Avery and past-president Paul Brinton are quick to credit the club’s fellow lawn-bowlers, whose continued support has allowed for the necessary improvements to take place.
“In an era where clubs elsewhere have seen declining membership – some are down under 70 – we have more or less managed to maintain our numbers,” said Avery, who first took up lawn-bowling eight years ago after retiring from a journalism career.
Mann Park’s membership is a diverse group, too. There are some who bowl multiple times a week – or even multiple times per day – and take part in all manner of tournaments throughout the season, and there are others who might pop into an open afternoon session “once every two weeks.”
As well, there are some members who no longer bowl at all, but still enjoy coming to the club’s social functions, which include dinners, holiday parties and other events.
“This is a very social club,” Avery said.
While lawn-bowling is a sport most often associated with retirees, Avery said the club has actively tried to recruit members of all ages and skill levels.
It’s a sport that – for most – is fun and easy to learn. It often attracts curlers or, in Avery’s case, golfers, who find some of their skills transferable to the bowling greens.
“It’s a game of subtlety. We have people in their 90s who are still able to throw the ball all the way to the end. The greens are very fast, so it doesn’t take all that much strength to get it to the other end. All it requires is that you be accurate,” Avery said.
“Some people struggle for awhile, and then there are others who pick it up almost instantly. But… I’ve found there are very few people who can’t do it if they persist.”
It’s a great way to stay healthy, added Brinton, who first saw the sport being played while growing up in England 40 years ago, but did not play himself until about nine years ago when he signed up at Mann Park.
“I can’t imagine anything more healthy than coming out into the sunshine and bowling. The health department should be paying us,” he laughed.
The club’s season opened in April, and hosts a variety of tournaments and events – many of which include visits from other Lower Mainland clubs – throughout the summer.
For more information on lawn bowling or the Mann Park Lawn Bowling Club, visit www.mannparklbc.com