Many bowling clubs hurting from falling memberships must be wondering what Takapuna is doing right as they watch its player numbers steadily increase toward an expected 200-plus by the end of this year.
The 106-year-old club currently has 170 members, boosted last year by another 30 which is around the total strength of some smaller North Harbour Centre clubs. Takapuna chairman John Porter says the membership increase is continuing while other clubs are reporting fewer people playing their game these days.
He said his club appreciated why they were dropping out or just not joining due to pressure from families and workplaces for their time, particularly at weekends.
“Takapuna and its members have something which attracts new members,” John says. “It has always been known as a very friendly club like a large family and they are joining because they are drawn by the friendliness, the way it is run and the general positive, fun attitude.
“And we have a great volunteer group – no-one apart from a very few such as the green-keeper are paid.”
A friend introduced John to bowls 36 years ago at Kamo where he was working for Telecom and was drawn to the game for its camaraderie and competition – “and I still am,” he says.
He moved to Auckland after playing in Northland for five years and joined Birkenhead where he spent 27 years with the club, serving as a committeeman for 18, treasurer for 12 and president before leaving as a life member. John joined Takapuna two years ago to be nearer his home, just a two-block walk to his new club, where he was elected board chairman after his first year.
Takapuna has for 13 years encouraged its business house competition – known as Krak a Jack – which continues to pull new members into the club while corporates use the facilities for team-building sessions in which staff play bowls, dine and enjoy a drink together. Groups are usually from 12 to 50 people although the biggest was 84.
“All this is great money for the club and another big money-earner is lease of the premises for a large variety of community functions,” John says.
“We also have Graham Dorreen who is a member here coaching 20 to 25 players weekly for eight months from November then monthly during winter – he is a great draw. And three years ago we bought 20 sets of bowls at a cost of $20,000 so first-year players would not have the expense of buying their own.”
Takapuna has two greens – a grass and a carpet which was totally replaced this year at a cost of $225,000 and will enable year-round play.
The club owns its land, but where it was in relatively spacious countryside when purchased back in 1912, it is now almost surrounded by high-rise buildings on Byron Ave in downtown Takapuna which causes breezes to swirl unpredictably across the greens so a bright red airport-style windsock has been installed to alert players to the wayward winds. Such innovation and its promise of “playing hard and having fun” continue to attract new players to the sport.