Middle Park Takes Innovative Approach to Attract Social Members
Nate Zeeno, the General Manager at Middle Park Bowling Club, is not afraid to think outside the box. Since taking over the role in September 2016, the innovative manager with a background in hospitality at Crown Casino has put the focus firmly on community engagement and club growth through a diverse program of social and entertainment activities for members, guests, families and younger demographics.
The contemporary approach has seen the introduction of fun family days with jumping castles and other activities for kids, as well as ‘Summer Night Lights’ events every Friday featuring free entry, food trucks, live music, happy hour at the bar from 4-7pm, and of course a little Barefoot Bowls thrown into the mix. The club also promotes itself as an ideal venue to watch special events like major football games and even UFC fights, which can draw crowds of up to 300 people.
“It’s important to take advantage of all opportunities. At some point a Bowls Club needs to step away from the norm and look for new ways to attract people in its local area,” says Nate. “With a progressive new Board encouraging me to try different things, the club has gone from strength to strength over the past few years.”
And in a changing, time-poor society, Nate believes it makes sense to considerthe advantages of social memberships over playing memberships, shifting away from long term membership packages to more casual, short term commitments.
“Since the change in direction we’ve attracted hundreds of new social members and this has opened up a whole new income stream. When we first started the Summer Night Lights it was wildly successful and our fun, laid-back summer sessions are always a hit,” Nate says.
Along with its corporate and social bowls programs, Middle Park Bowling Club is also happy to host private events including buck’s and hen’s parties. “Financially we rely quite heavily on both corporate and social functions, so it’s important to capitalise on the popularity of various group activities each summer,” he says. “Many clubs won’t allow these events because they’re worried about the potential outcomes, but for us it’s another great source of revenue and we always make sure they run smoothly.”
It’s one thing for a Bowls Club to host regular social events that go well beyond the lawn bowls, but it still takes a concerted marketing push to get people through the doors. “The main goal of our promotional activities is to build awareness of the club and our activities and to better engage our local community,” Nate says.
“We do local letterbox drops with our flyers as well as a lot of social media marketing, which keeps the regulars coming back. Repeat business is essential when it comes to social members and non-members, especially during the winter period. In just a few years the club’s Facebook page has gone from 200 ‘likes’ to 1200 ‘likes’, so we’re definitely on the right track,” he says.
“It’s a great club and we have lots of big plans for redevelopment in the coming years, hopefully with support from local and state governments, including a massive overhaul of the clubhouse. Recent success has allowed us to push ahead and make further improvements to the club. And on the greens, we’ve just been promoted to Division 1, which was the only missing ingredient!”