Membership numbers are on the rise throughout the country, with the latest Bowls New Zealand figures signalling a 4.1% increase across the board.
While membership numbers continue to follow the downward trend for full playing and competitive members, the number of social bowlers has climbed north and indicates a changing landscape within the sport.
Bowls New Zealand chief executive Mark Cameron believes the overall lift in social membership reflects the competitive needs of the game are dwindling, and instead bowling clubs are becoming more community focused and driven.
“(I think it’s fair to say), we often talk about a decline in membership in bowling clubs, but what’s actually happening is we’re getting a healthy growth in overall membership with more people signing up as social members of their clubs as opposed to wanting the full playing rights,” Cameron said.
Cameron points to the recent development of Naenae Bowling Club in Lower Hutt, where a multi-million dollar project has transformed the facilities to become a “one stop” shop – much more than just a green and a clubhouse, and much more than just bowls. The change has seen Naenae held up as the benchmark for other clubs and centres in the country to follow suit, and has resulted in a membership count of more than 700, up from it’s initially established membership of 180 – with the vast majority of increase reflected in the form of social members.
“It’s about understanding that our bowling clubs are becoming more and more community facilities and as a result we’re seeing clubs adapting what they can offer to their communities and I think that’s critically important going forward,” Cameron said. “Naenae is a good example, and there are certainly other redevelopments happening around the country, that while ‘’bowling club’’ might well be in the title, these clubs are turning into modern community facilities and enjoying a boom in social members walking through the doors.”
With a clear willingness and interest for people to become social members, Cameron hopes more clubs will consider ways to invite and attract the community to the club, pushing the facilities as a community hub and embracing the mindset of potential social bowlers.
“The growth is in the social space, and of course, while we still want to maintain our full playing membership numbers, we should also embrace this social trend too and ultimately enjoy the fact our sport is increasing in members overall.”