Exit the motorway at the Market Road off-ramp arriving in Auckland, and you may find yourself driving by the Remuera Bowling Club. It can’t be missed. The clubhouse is a local icon … a grand old building constructed in 1906, 11 years after the club was established in 1895.
Inside the clubhouse, it’s like visiting a Lords or a Twickenham. The honours boards stretch across the back wall, gilded with over a century of names. The banks of member lockers recall a pre-license era not so long ago. And the dimly lit room at the rear resounds to the crisp ‘thock’ of snooker balls on the two full-sized tables.
Remuera may seem like the Hogwarts of bowls – particularly when compared to its more contemporarily-facilitated bowls neighbour at the other end of Market Road: Carlton Cornwall. But things are changing. Quickly.
By the middle of April, one of the artificial greens adjacent to Market Road will be covered, providing an all-year-round facility for the club.
“It’s all happened pretty quickly,” says Club President, Murray Lander. “At the 2017 AGM, approval was given to investigate a possible cover concept; potential resource consent issues; and the probable cost of such a cover. One year later, the June 2018 AGM gave the go-ahead, subject to satisfactory funding.”
All the boxes have since been ticked. Shade Systems, the builder of the New Lynn cover, produced a winning bid. The council has approved the resource consent (and has since all but approved a building consent). And the Auckland Bowls Centre came to the party, underwriting the funding for the project.
“For the first time in 124 years,” smiles Lander, “we have some certainty of playing on rain-affected days. The cover will be ready. Not only for the 145 members of the club but for use by other Auckland clubs and the Auckland Centre. In fact, 10 weekend days each year will be reserved for centre tournament usage.”
It’s going to mean that Remuera becomes a hub for bowls in central Auckland – joining a network of covered facilities across greater Auckland – with New Lynn in the west, Pukekohe in the south, Orewa in the north, and potentially Howick in the east.
It’s also going to mean that the Remuera Bowling Club as it has been perceived in the past will change. It won’t just be the gentlemen’s club for wealthy Remueraites wanting a quiet roll-up haven.
“We’re determined to increase the membership,” says Lander, “particularly the number of women in the club.” (women weren’t admitted as full club members until 2000)
“We’re also determined to increase our competitiveness. Given our resources, Remuera hasn’t produced a lot of bowls names over the years. Or tournaments for that matter … with the possible exception of the Extended Tournament.” (formerly known as the Hugh Wright Tournament.)
But the picture could even be bigger.
Remuera could become a real bowls powerhouse. “We have a large freehold property,” observes Lander, “with 4 greens, lots of car parking and a large clubhouse. With our first-class facilities, there’s a lot of potential for us to take on a bigger role in bowls.”
That would no doubt be welcomed by everyone: the club, the centre, the national body, and the bowling community.
Watch this space.