A petition against the closure of the East Ivanhoe Bowling Club was received by Banyule City Council last month, as part of ongoing unrest about the council’s plan for local sporting clubs.
Now with more than 600 signatures from local residents, the change.org petition organised by club president Matthew Perkins highlights concern among sections of the community about the Ivanhoe Sports Precinct Plan.
The plan aims to fix up ageing local sporting facilities and find homes for sporting clubs that have long gone without one. They include merging two local bowls clubs and making that space available for the Ivanhoe Netball club.
Mr Perkins said the council was wrong in its reasons for selecting the rival Ivanhoe Bowling Club on John St as the preferred site for a potential merger between the two sporting clubs.
“They’ve come out publicly and said our reduced numbers is why John St is the preferred site … that’s totally incorrect,” he said.
Our membership growth has increased dramatically over the last two years, both pennant players and social members.
Mr Perkins said it didn’t seem fair that his club, which boasts a 70-year history in East Ivanhoe, was the target.
“We have a lot to offer the community, and the community supports us,” he said.
“We’re extremely unhappy.”
Ivanhoe Bowling Club president John Mehan said his club was a “significantly bigger club than East Ivanhoe”, running more pennant teams and with more bowling members than their counterparts.
“I know they’ve got two or three hundred social members. My understanding is they don’t pay any fees to the club … they’ve got a number of community groups that use their facilities,” he said.
“We’ve got a different business model to them essentially, they’re more of a social club, and we’re a bowling club.”
Mr Mehan said he believed the council had done a good job consulting the community about the changes, particularly in addressing the growing need for participation in women’s sport in Ivanhoe.
“They’ve identified a large cohort of female sportspeople, netballers, who haven’t got a home … they’ve identified a potential home,” he said.
Unfortunately in life, there’s winners and losers in this situation.
The Ivanhoe Sports Precinct Plan proposes that the Ivanhoe Netball Club relocate to new training and match day facilities at Ivanhoe Park, with three new outdoor netball courts to replace the site’s bowling greens.
The plan predicts that the highest growing population demographic in Ivanhoe, 75-79-year-olds, will rise by roughly 2 or 3 per cent between 2016 and 2036.
According to Bowls Australia, 29 per cent of bowlers are aged over 75, highlighting a growing need in the area for bowling facilities.
Mr Perkins and the East Ivanhoe Bowling Club have signalled their intentions to bring further community response to the council if necessary in the hopes of saving their sporting home, with a change.org petition ongoing.