Chichester bowlers on move - but they’re not going far

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Bosses at Chichester Bowling Club have embarked on a major fundraising effort to allow them to move out of an old home no longer fit for purpose.

They’re the oldest in bowling club in Sussex and have been in their wooden pavilion since the 1930s – and now they badly need bigger and more modern facilities.

The green is busy at Chichester Bowling Club

The green is busy at Chichester Bowling Club

They’ve found just the venue they need – and it’s right next door to their ageing HQ in the city’s Priory Park. So as part of a wider revamp of facilities in the council-owned park, they’re on the move.

Their new base is currently used by Chichester Priory Park Cricket Club but is to be extended to allow the bowling club to move in and use it all year round. They’ll be able to bowl indoors throughout the winter and allow community groups to use it.

Club president Simon Tooley said these were exciting time but the club needed backing to help make their move – which could cost as much as £300,000 – a success.

See an interview with Simon in our video, above

It’s about getting the club ready for the 21st century and beyond.

“When our clubhouse was originally built in the 1930s we were a men-only club with about 50 members. We’ve now got 80-odd members and about 30 ladies,” said Tooley.

“It’s a wooden building and it’s no longer really fit for purpose. There’s a major scheme planned for the park but the idea is that we move into the building next to ours.

“We’re looking to extend it so we can get an all-year-round facility, get a couple of short mats in there for short-mat bowling in the winter, and be able to have social functions, card evenings, whist drives.

“But apart from being available to bowlers, we’ll have social members we can open it up to. And other people will be able to hire the building during the winter months.”

Tooley said the plans would enable the club to grow in a way it could not at present.

“It’s about getting the club ready for the 21st century and beyond. We have one of the best greens in Sussex yet we’ve never been able to host the county.

“We’re limited at the moment. We’re creaking at the seams as it is so we’re looking at extending our membership, creating a junior section, and encouraging disabled bowling.

“There’s a local blind society who play in Bognor, so with our new building, it will have easier access and we’ll be able to open it up to a lot of people. It will be 50 per cent bigger than the space we have at the moment.

“Depending on how much of the work we can take on ourselves, the scheme is going to cost anywhere between £175,000 and £300,000 which, on the face of it, is a scary sort of figure. Fitting it out ourselves will help keep the cost down.

“But the membership are looking to raise half of that ourselves, and we’re approaching various organisations for grants, like Bowls England.

“We have all sorts of things planned. We’re running a 100 Club scheme which is open to members and non-members. We’re doing pledge schemes, there’s going to be a car boot sale, we have use of Ford airfield on bank holidays, so there’s a whole range of schemes coming up over the next few months.

“Hopefully, in some form or another, we’d like to be there (the new HQ) for the start of April 2017 – that’s the ultimate goal.

“That’s also reliant on getting full planning permission from the council. They’ve been supportive of our plans so far but we obviously need to get those rubber-stamped. That’s the next thing that we hope to get approved.”

In the 100 Club, people pay £10 a month and have a three-in-100 chance of a winning a cash prize each month. Already, 88 people have signed up.

To find out more the club’s fundraising push and get involved, see www.chichesterbowlingclub.co.uk

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