Lighthouse club – Kyneton BC
As one of the best junior bowlers ever developed in Victoria departs, Kyneton Bowls Club has plans to uncover a few more Chloe Stewarts.
Stewart’s move to the Gold Coast to further her bowls career at the 2018 Commonwealth Games host venue takes her away from the Central Victorian club in which she’s grown up, and a club she’s helped put on the map nationally.
But Kyneton BC hopes that a relaunched junior program – forming a junior squad called the Central Highlands Rangers – can continue Kyneton’s reputation as a nursery for great bowls talent.
A Monday afternoon junior program, and reaching out to a local school holiday program, helped uncover plenty of interest from local youngsters in bowls.
Much was down to the popular Stewart, whose profile locally helped attract interest from around the district – juniors thinking perhaps they could represent their country as well.
“Now we’ve got five regulars, we’ve formed a committee, and we hope that by July, we’ll have enough interest to form a junior squad able to play against other junior squads,” Kyneton BC venue manager Rebecca Bell says of a project she describes as “her little baby”.
It’s one of many good things happening at Kyneton BC. The Central Victorian club – located about 90km from Melbourne – combines its bowls facility with many other services such as Tony’s Place Restaurant and Bar, function and meeting facilities, and TAB and Keno.
So while it has more than 100 bowling members, it has in total around 800 members including social and general members who sign in to eat there, see a show, punt on the horses, or simply drop in for a coffee.
Innovative plans to boost bowls membership by giving social and general members 12 months’ use of the greens will go before bowls club members soon.
The club has also run a successful one-day competition mimicking the Australian Premier League match format.
It’s proven a financial boost and fundraiser for the bowls section – all run and administered by Kyneton member Simon Buckley in conjunction with the bowls committee.
“We had about 140 spectators this year and ran it over one night. We saw an increase of about 11% in our gaming takings, and a 50% increase in bar taking over a normal night,” Rebecca says.
But they’re still looking to improve, admitting numbers in the second year of the program were down slightly – primarily because they decided to run it at Easter.
A constant quest for improvement is the common theme at Kyneton BC.
A Jack Attack competition is under consideration as a social bowls driver, while the club is also still buzzing from success during State Champions Week – Stewart winning the women’s State singles and Desma Budd part of the state champion women’s pairs outfit.
Kyneton BC understands that their bowling membership is getting older. So strategies of supplementing that membership with juniors, and unashamedly targeting those in the 35-55 age bracket, are key.
“You need to think outside the square. How do we get more bowlers in? How do we get more members in?” Rebecca says.
“You need a point of difference from the venue down the road, be it different services you can offer or an atmosphere suited to the target market you want to attract, in our case, juniors and middle aged bowlers, they are the club’s future.”
“You look at bigger towns around Victoria like Bendigo and Ballarat, and you see some of the things they are doing.
“One thing we’re looking at is a Mums and Dads pick-up club, where Mums and Dads on their way to pick up their kids from school can drop in for a bowl in the afternoon, maybe a coffee, then go pick up the kids from school.”
“Our slogan is we’re more than just a bowls club, and that’s how we have to think.”