Provincial Representatives Going to Nationals in 2017
As the sign on the clubhouse indicates, the Bridgetown Lawn Bowling Club is home to Canadian Champions. Several Canadian Champions. There have been multiple medals won at Nationals over the last 40+ years, and the club is currently home to the two-time Canadian Junior Champion who will try for a three-peat in August during the Junior Nationals being hosted here in Nova Scotia.
The club and its members have put Bridgetown on the map, not just in Nova Scotia and Canada, but around the world. Over the years, the club has had members on the National Lawn Bowls Squad, representing Canada at the Asia Pacific Games, Atlantic Championships, World Bowls and Commonwealth Games. Not bad for a town of under a thousand people.
If I sound proud, it’s because I am. Bridgetown is my hometown. My grandfather was a Canadian Champion. My mother is a Canadian Champion. She’s also a former member of the National Team, and continues to be a fierce competitor on the national stage today. She is also a mentor and coach to my sister and I, and as a result we now have the great privilege of competing as a family at Canadians. Bridgetown Lawn Bowling Club is where we all got our start.
I am proud of this club, and the many members who have rolled bowls here. Proud of their accomplishments and proud to have learned from them. Anyone involved in sport and recreation understands the valuable life lessons we learn, whether we’re competing on the big stage, or taking part for fun. That’s why I love sport. And that’s why I’m sharing our story.
Our club is struggling. Declining membership and increasing costs are making it difficult to survive. We didn’t know if we’d be able to open this year. We did. We’re hoping it won’t be our last season. At one time there were 50 members, along with a seniors group that bowled afternoons. Today there are 15 adults (3 of which are dual members), 10 juniors, and 1 social member.
The Bridgetown Lawn Bowling Club has been very self-sufficient over the years. Unlike any other club in our province, our members care for the greens. We do not rely on the municipality. We apply for available grants, we have a bar and kitchen (used during tournaments) which bring in a modest revenue each season, and in recent years local businesses and individuals have graciously supported a fundraiser, buying advertisements which we proudly display outside our club. Our members also organize, prepare, sell tickets, deliver and serve an annual salad supper fundraiser each season which has become our major source of revenue. It has grown to nearly 200 plates. For a small club, and a shrinking volunteer base, it’s a major undertaking. But it’s also one of the initiatives that literally pays our bills and keeps our club afloat.
To give you a better idea, maintenance of our greens costs between $2-3000 each season. That doesn’t take into account any issues with equipment. Our insurance is about $1300. We are still paying $1000 loan payment each year to cover work done on the club’s foundation several years ago. On April 1, 2015 the Town of Bridgetown dissolved, losing its town status and becoming a part of the county. When that happened our club suffered another serious financial impact. We were once treated as a seasonal facility, now we have to pay water/sewer year-round even though we’re only open five months of the year. It has meant an extra $700+ for that bill. Power is another $500.
Compared to other facilities it isn’t an expensive operation. We do it on approximately $12,000 a year. In recent years we have only been left with a few hundred dollars in the bank account at the end of the season. Hosting Atlantic Bowls in 2011 and 2015 when it was Nova Scotia’s turn as host province, is the only thing that has saved us. It generated a little extra revenue that has kept us going. Last year, we ran a deficit.
The Bridgetown Lawn Bowling Club has been part of our community for nearly 100 years. It started out on a front lawn around 1919. It has been a gathering place in the summer, drawing players and their families from across the province and Atlantic Canada for many years. They have enjoyed the hospitality of our club, our hotel and cottages, and local shops. We have been known to have the best greens in the province and put on the best dinners around. We want to continue showcasing what our club and community have to offer.
Ultimately, we know it will take growing our membership to sustain our club long term, but in order to have a chance to do that, we need to keep our club open. While our adult members are getting older, we have one of the most successful junior programs around. Ten youngsters play out of our club. They are active members and enjoy the game so much. Three of them recently played in a men’s tournament. As I watched them play, I was struck by the fun they were having, the smiles on their faces. When I consider the many opportunities this sport has afforded me, it saddens me to think those juniors may not be able to experience the same. We are the only lawn bowling club in south western Nova Scotia. One of 6 clubs in the province (4 in metro Halifax).
We know other clubs have faced, or perhaps are facing, similar challenges. We don’t want to wait until it’s too late. We are sharing our story with our community, our county, provincial sport associations, and you, our bowls family. We are respectfully reaching out through Lawn Bowls Nova Scotia, as well as our national body, Bowls Canada Boulingrin to ask for your ideas, suggestions, or guidance. We are looking for any and all options or creative solutions that might allow us to keep our club going. Unique grants we may not be aware of, fundraising ideas, or membership drives. We know if anyone can help, it will be those who share our passion about the game of bowls, and those who understand the importance of our clubs to our local communities.
Yours in bowls,
Bridgetown Lawn Bowling Club (Dual Member), National Bowls Team Member
Bridgetown Lawn Bowling & Quoits Club