The Wanaka Bowling Club must be one of the busiest, if not the busiest bowling club over winter in New Zealand.
The reason for that is simple. Someone with a lot of foresight (and presumably with a lot of money) decided that passionate bowlers wanting to continue to play the beautiful game over the winter months, needed a more ‘climate-friendly’ facility. And so ‘the Stadium’ was born … an indoor, 5-rink green adjacent to the artificial, 8-rink outdoor green at the Wanaka Bowling Club.
That was 25 years ago. And since then, the use of the Stadium must have far exceeded the wildest hyperbole spun by the promoters of the facility at the time, to convince the banks, the grant funders, the sponsors and the philanthropists to come on board this community investment.
“The Stadium is used at least 6 days a week over winter,” says Publicity Office and Men’s Club Captain Peter Wilson. “And to be honest, one of the things the club may consider in its strategic planning is whether it needs expanding. There’s often a waiting list to get on the rinks.”
That sounds unbelievable to clubs struggling for membership around New Zealand. But then, Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s burgeoning population hotspots. And the influx, particularly of a bowls-inclined age group, augers well for the future of the club. Its 185 members already makes Wanaka one of the largest clubs in New Zealand.
But what also makes the Stadium work is that the club also ensures there’s a full programme of bowls activity over winter.
“On Mondays we have started to have Mt Aspiring College students in here after school,” says Peter. “They’re not just all skiers and boarders! And we run the Edgewater Cup on Monday evenings – which is a cumulative points-scoring tournament over the winter season. It attracts a lot of banter and barracking!”
“Tuesdays is 2-4-2 day in the mornings and afternoons. In the evenings we run a ‘tradies’ evening for triples teams from local businesses in the area. The trades evenings are so popular, we run them on Wednesday and Thursday evenings as well.”
“On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, the members play three-bowl triples. While on Friday afternoons, we run a progressive triples tournament right throughout the year to get club members inter-mingling, with visiting bowlers being very welcome. This year we have experimented on Friday nights with ‘quickfire singles’ and spectators being encouraged to come and enjoy pizza and drinks.
On Saturday, the club’s signature social tournament, the Studholme Trophy, is contested.
Named after Wanaka identity and club member Neil Studholme, the 12-week tournament is contested by ‘suburbs’ from the Wanaka area – including teams from the Hawea Bowling Club who effectively become part of the Wanaka Club over winter.
“It’s been going for 13 years,” says Peter, “and has become the highlight of the Wanaka calendar. Every week the Stadium’s crowded with supporters and fans.”
Sunday is reserved for special events at the Stadium.
That includes the Stadium Mixed Pairs, Mixed Triples and Mixed Fours tournaments and annual fixtures with the Clyde and Hawea Bowling Clubs.
“The Stadium season finishes on 24 August,” says Peter, “following the excitement and drama of the finals of the Studholme Trophy, a pot-luck dinner is held and we also present the trophies won over the winter season.”
Judging by the competition programme, there must be a heck of a lot of silverware that needs to find new homes and trophy cabinets!
After a short break, the summer season has already rolled back around with an Opening Day held earlier this month, including a roll up on the outside green followed by a BBQ.
Now, it’s all go again for the Wanaka Bowling Club.
by Rob Davis