It’s a century-old Kelowna institution that evokes images of a bygone era, but the years haven’t been kind to the Kelowna Lawn Bowling Club.
“It has a long history and presence in Kelowna, but the club has seen better times,” admitted Jim Gabriel, director of recreation and cultural services, on hand to present to city council a staff recommendation that the club be given a one-time grant of $10,000 for a turf rehab program.
Gabriel told council the club membership is declining with just 43 members remaining, playing on a lawn that is in extremely poor condition, which in turn affects the club’s ability to attract new members.
The playing surface doesn’t do well in the winter and there isn’t enough expertise, manpower, equipment or money to keep it up to acceptable playing standards, Gabriel added.
Rehabilitating the turf would require aeration, top dressing overseeding and fertilizing, while requiring the club to close to play until at least late summer.
Beyond the turf, staff are recommending an operational review of the club to determine its viability, something the remaining members want to see continue as its closure would mean Kelowna is the only valley city without one.
The club has been located in City Park since 1940 and at one point, boasted over 100 members. Its lease on prime land in City Park expired in 2007, but the city has rolled it over for the last three years.
Gabriel also recommended the club be given an operational grant of $5,000 to help it recover from its limited season, but Mayor Sharon Shepherd said such a grant would have to reviewed under 2011 budget deliberations.
Coun. Andre Blanleil said he had no problem with the one-time grant, but added that the club needs to address declining membership at least as much as the poor turf.
“If it’s going to be a smaller and smaller membership, that’s the bigger concern,” he said.
Coun. Charlie Hodge said the club should consider a liaison with local schools to try and rejuvenate their membership and give it some long-term viability.
Council passed the funding request unanimously.