Ribbon cut to open the new Orewa Bowls Stadium

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Orewa Bowling Club President Tony Rickerby.

Last week, the Ryman Healthcare Bowls Stadium at the Orewa Bowling Club was ‘officially’ opened by the company’s Community Relations Representative, Steph Cawte.

‘Officially’, because the stadium roof itself has now been open and operating for some three months. And the 250+ members of the Orewa Bowling Club are loving it.

“It seems to have been a long time getting there,” observes Club President Tony Rickerby, “I think we started talking about it in 2016. But it’s all been worth it.”

Tony’s patience, his perseverance, his tenacity (and pick every other suitable adjective) have played a large part in turning the roof into reality. What seems on the face of it to be the construction of a simple structure – an oversized beach marquee – proved to be incredibility difficult.

“It’s the sheer size of the roof that caused the difficulty,” says Tony. “We’re talking about a structure that is about 2,500 square metres. Compare that to the size of a domestic home – we regard a home just one tenth of the size (250sqm) as a big property.”

“For starters, the anchor blocks for the pylons had to be much larger than originally envisaged. The problem is not holding the structure up. The problem is holding it down. We’re in an identified cyclone zone here by the beach, and effectively we’re deploying a half acre-sized parachute! The drawings we did for the original building consent and quotation had to be totally redone.”

It also meant totally beefing up the steelwork for the roof.

“The thickness of the steel required for the pylons and beams meant they couldn’t be made in either New Zealand or Australia. Everything had to fabricated in China. There’s 28 columns and 64 rafter sections. Making it more complicated was the fact that the rafters are curved … they had to use some sort of high-tech laser system to heat and bend the steel to create the consistent curvature that was needed.”

“All the steelwork then had to be galvanised by Nova Shades in Brisbane. Flanges had to be welded to both ends of the columns so they could be bolted to the anchor blocks and the roof itself. That sounds simple. But each of the flanges weighed 150kg. Just keeping them in place and correctly aligned, while the 3-hour weld job is done for each flange, was a challenge in itself. And there were 56 of them! Understandably there were a few hiccups.”

All these difficulties caused the Board of the Orewa Bowling Club to wonder whether the project could ever succeed. When Tony was despatched to the Nova Shades factory to check out progress, he realised that they had grabbed a tiger by the tail.

“It’s not til you see the difficulty of what we were trying to do that it dawned on us the challenges Nova Shades had. They were terrific. And were determined to give us what we asked for.”

“Even when all the bits and pieces arrived in our carpark in a 9 container meccano set, there were still challenges ahead. “When you crane a 50 metre rafter on to resting pylons at either end, the bolt holes don’t align until you release the weight. It’s a tricky cranework moment. And synchronising two cranes to unravel and lay the white two tonne roof membrane was another moment when we all held our breath.”

Finished off with a re-levelled and re-stretched carpet, as well as new Tiger Turf borders, the result is fabulous. The Ryman Healthcare Bowls Stadium will become a superb community facility for Orewa.

“An unanticipated side effect of the stadium has been what it has done for our membership growth. People cant help noticing it as they drive by. Or if they walk by, they pop their heads over the fence to see what’s going on. As a result, we’ve already attracted 20 new first year bowlers this year (12 men and 8 women). Those numbers are unheard of in our club history.”

The roof is also giving the Orewa Bowling Club a new income stream. “We already have lots of bookings for corporate bowls during the winter,” says Tony. “Something we would never have had in the pre-roof days.”

Not surprisingly, the Orewa Bowling Club not only won the 2018-2019 North Harbour Centre Club of the Year, but also the national club of the year at last year’s Bowls New Zealand Awards Night.

“The members are all thrilled with the new facility,” says Tony. “It hasn’t been easy getting there. And my best advice to other clubs contemplating covering a green, it to come and have a chat about it – not for me to put you off, but to open your eyes to the challenges ahead of you.”

Well done Tony.

And well done Orewa.

by Rob Davis