Things were pretty grim at the Foxton & Beach Bowling Club a year or so ago.
On the morning of 2nd March 2022, an electrical fault started a devastating fire in the clubhouse, and by the time the local firies got there, there wasn’t much of it left.
Worse still, their one and only artificial green had not only been damaged by a gnarl of fire hoses, but was contaminated with escaping asbestos dust.
The club had lost everything.
“We thought we were well-insured,” says Club President Alan Shannon. “But when contractors started quoting figures like $250,000 just to demolish and remove the remains of the clubhouse, we knew that we were going to be up for a challenge.”
But it’s a challenge the club’s met head on. And Foxton & Beach is well on the way to being the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes.
“The fire highlighted how important the club was to the Foxton Beach community,” says Alan. “The members were determined to keep the club open. But so was the community. People who had been thinking about joining ‘one day’ realised that day was now. Even people who weren’t bowlers got behind us.”
The recovery finally started in the first week of June 2022, with the demolition and clearing of the site.
“A local demolition company, Caldows, came to the party with a $66,000 quote to clear the site,” says club member Ken Macrae. “Once that was done, we could start again!”
“Our first priority was to get a new green so we could play bowls again. We were lucky to have insurance which covered the cost … although the club found itself having to chip in another $18,000 to bring the base up to standard.”
“We were playing on the new green by November last year.”
At the same time, the redevelopment team was sourcing a new clubhouse. “We made the decision to relocate a building to the site.“ says Alan. “It was going to be quicker and cheaper than building from scratch.”
The club found a 128 square metre 1970’s ‘hall’ in the Hawkes Bay that had been used by Higgins Contractors.
“We bought it, transported it here, and put it up on footings for $140,000. We budgeted a further $250,000 for refurbishment, including a commercial kitchen and a disabled toilet facility.”
“The clubhouse arrived in late September, and we were going to be in it after 6 weeks or so with all the refurbishment work done. Unfortunately, council decided we needed a resource consent, so work was held up while they hummed and ha’ed until mid-January this year. It was pretty frustrating, but at least the builders could get in then.”
“To keep us going, we got hold of a 9 metre x 9 metre marquee to act as a temporary clubhouse,” says Ken. “Levin Hire gave us an awesome price on the hire … big ups to them!”
“The ‘marquee clubhouse’ looks like a typical communal tent at a kiwi campground … plastic tables and chairs, a couple of fridges to store the good stuff and a BBQ we can push outside. It’s doing a great job ... especially for our twice a week twilight bowls.”
The more permanent clubhouse is expected to open at Easter. But that’s just stage 1.
“Stage 2 will be a newly built 160 square metre adjoining building which will bring us up to a similar square footage as we had before. The builders reckon it will be complete in July.”
“Then it’s just a question of kitting it out … we lost everything in the fire. Although some of the old brown and black bowls in the ‘shed’ made it through … they might make great trophies!”
Fortunately that kitting out cost has been helped by the greater bowls community.
“They ran a fundraising tournament at Naenae which raised $21,000 for us. The Manawatu Centre also donated $4,000 from a fundraising tournament, and on top of this, donations thus far have exceeded $9,000. The support’s been great!”
But probably the best news is that during the re-build time. club membership has actually gone up!
“We’ve now got 60 full-playing members and more than a hundred social members,” says Alan. “Rather than the fire causing us to roll over and die, we’re going to come through stronger than ever.”
Well done Foxton!