Lighthouse clubs – Bareena BC

by Team BV

Bareena Bowling Club is a shining light of how a club can breathe new life into itself. They have a strategic plan. They want to become a community hub in the Geelong area. They are unashamedly family-friendly and inclusive. They now have modern facilities and further important upgrades ready to happen.  They will welcome 3,000 school students through the doors over the next 12 months to try the sport. And they’ll be a completely smoke-free venue within 18 months.
President Rob Priddle, secretary Dianne Hutchinson and junior co-ordinator and club director Dan Stewart sat down with Bowls Victoria to discuss their club’s journey.
Why did Bareena need to change, and what were the initial steps you took?
Dan: If you could imagine that five years ago, this was a musty, smelly, 100-year-old building with a snooker table dominating, locker rooms that smelt of jockstraps, women over here, men over there and wouldn’t go near (each other). Our previous directors dragged the building into the 21st century. Rob’s come on board and dragged the strategics into the 21st century. Financially we’re doing well. Now what we’ve got to do is focus towards dragging the membership into the 21st century.  But it’s come a hell of a long way in such a short period of time.
Rob: Our previous directors started the work. They obtained a grant to help with a major facility upgrade, and redo the building. It provided modern amenities, additional rooms, access for people for disabilities. We’ve got policies in place, with our vision, mission and values written down. We’re moving very much towards mixed bowls. We’re really big on that, from a board level down. We’re really hoping we can get more ladies bowling on the Saturday.
You build the club, you build an inclusive, family-friendly, community-based club, and people will come. The main goal is to bring families in, get Mum, Dad and the kids playing bowls and get the family here on the Saturday.
We held a fork in the road forum five years ago. worked with a company called Leisure Networks, engaged with Club Help, adopted their policy to ours and made it our own. We’re part of Good Sports. We’ve now got a smoking policy, responsible drinking policy. We’ll move to being a smoke-free venue by the start of 2017. If we want families in here,  it’s what we’ve got to do.
Why does a club like yours need a strategic plan?
Dianne:  If you don’t have a goal, you don’t get anywhere.
Rob: You’ve got to have a goal. You’ve got to know where you are now, where you want to be, and have steps of how you get to that end point. We have a five-year strategic plan.  There are certain things we want to make happen.

What other challenges did you face?
Rob:  Communication was a big one. The information wasn’t getting out there. We found a lot of people were very reluctant to give out an email address. It’s making people understand we can get a lot of information out quickly to them with email. We have a view a family member will have an email. And if we pass (our communications) on to them, they can pass it on Dad or Grandad or whatever. So there’s no excuse to say I don’t have an email address. You’ll probably know somebody who does. We also put up “snap frames” around the club, so we open them up, put a sheet in when there’s something new and it needs to be front and centre. We also have a member information booklet for new members, and for those who come down for barefoot bowls or functions  to take away with them.
Some clubs embrace juniors. Some don’t see the need. What’s Bareena’s position on younger bowlers?
Dan: We’ve already had eight sessions of 50 students from Geelong College. We have Kardinia International,  St Joseph’s College – we’ll have something like 3,000 secondary school students go through this club. The challenge is getting one of them to play bowls. That’s got to be the next challenge for the club. Convert what’s there into new players. One of the things that holds us back a little bit is not having a schools comp in the Geelong region.
Rob:  We’ve had two young fellas who’ve been here since they were this high – Brannon Shelton and Ben Wilding – who have been made life members because of what they’ve done here.  Brannon’s won a few club championships, and so’s Ben.

What’s next for Bareena BC?
Rob: Replacing the greens comes first, then a commercial kitchen and new bar.
Dianne:  Replacing the kitchen and the bar is important. That’s how we’re going to get more people coming in. We’ve had a wedding here, and the first thing they said was: “This would be great if you had a commercial kitchen because we could recommend you to a lot of other places.” We’ve got a lot of functions here, and a lot of people come here and say how great it is to play bowls, then have your function right here. We’ve still got a work in progress to get that done. We’re on our way – but the greens got to come first because if you don’t have the greens, you can’t bowl.
Rob: It’s hard work. There’s a group of people with an element of passion who make sure things tick over. Sometime they tick over slowly, but as long as they keep ticking over. For our projects over the next two years, we need another $100k to get the club fully up to date. We’re hoping by the end of 2018 all the projects are done.
There’s always going to be work to do. But it looks like you’ve come a long way since that fork in the road.
Dan:  The barriers have been broken and it’s pretty impressive when you take a step back and have a look.  Rob’s brought in the corporate governance side of things. Di’s taken a hold of a whole heap of things around the club, and brought them together.  It wasn’t really there five years ago. It was a little club for little members, which was fine. But it was always going to die if you left it like that. The way it is now, we’re on the cusp of something pretty good in the next two years.
Click here for Bareena Bowling Club’s website to find out more about the club.