SPORTING clubs are known to bring communities together, but in one New South Wales town a new covered bowling “blue” is drawing players from across the state - injecting much needed cash into the local economy and boosting participation.
Bowlers on the club's new “blue” surface are thrilled to be able to compete - regardless of the conditions.
Committee members and staff are excited, the new facilities enable the north west NSW town to host zone, state and even national bowling competitions.
Further afield, the towns’ motels, dining establishments and retail stores have already benefited from the influx of bowlers travelling to test their skills at one of the state’s most prestigious competition venues.
And this is all without considering the “long list” of local businesses stuck to the club’s notice board - they all want to have Christmas parties at the Moree Service Club - and to try out the undercover bowling “blue”.
Club Director Michael Ivanov said upgrading to the “blue” synthetic bowling green, covered by an Enviroclass double bowling green cover is a huge boost for the community.
“There is no comparison, what we have now to what we had twelve months ago, and I mean this outshines anything that Moree has ever seen in the last 62 years of me living here,” he said.
“I’m telling you now, this will bring so many people to Moree. All the club members, all the different sporting bodies, even though they don’t play bowls, they will benefit from what these greens will bring into Moree.”
The structure is quite a sight.
Two curved roofs, 42 metres long and 82 metres wide, and the design of the cover makes the space seem even larger.
The blue-greens shine as bowlers compete - protected from the rain, hail or - the more common - searing north west NSW heat.
There’s no need for sunscreen - or even a hat - and in some cases a jumper would be preferable playing attire - thanks to the protection offered by the shelter
Moree Services Club Executive Assistant and keen bowler Wesley Macpherson said the curved roofs - up to eight metres above the playing surface - create a “barrier” between the hot tin roof and bowlers.
It’s also cooler on the new blue synthetic surface compared to a traditional hard-rolled, flat grass bowling green.
“That hardness would reflect a lot of heat and it could be 10-15 degrees hotter on the greens,” Wesley explained.
“When you consider the age of some of our members, an extra 10-15 degrees on a 35-40 degree day, that’s a major safety concern.
“Now with the roof, on a 45-degree day - which regularly happens in the Moree area - there’s a layer of air that flows and we can actually be playing and it’s 10-15 degrees cooler than outside.
“We were playing on the weekend and we were joking that it was getting so cold that we needed to put a jumper on.”
Protection from the elements has enabled more people to play bowls.
The official opening attracted up to 200 people, including former members who could no longer play on a traditional uncovered surface, but can now compete because of the protected playing area.
Wesley said keeping members involved in the club was important and the comfortable playing environment was the key.
Moree is about 620 kilometres from Sydney, towards the Queensland border, and in 2021 it had a population of just over 7000.
The Club is home to many local sporting organisations including the Moree Suns AFL team, darts, snooker, the town’s many cricket clubs as well as the Diggers Swimming Club.
There are 4000 Club Members and 80 active bowling members.
It’s expected the new facility would grow the membership and increase the number of social bowlers.
And it’s already attracted players from across the state.
“At the weekend we had 50 people that weren’t Moree residents, 30 stayed in motels,” Wesley explained.
“While in town at a motel, they were buying food, drinks, having a beer or three, or a glass of wine, eating in restaurants and at the club. The money has already started to pay back to the club.”
Hosting a zone bowls pennant playoff - including at least four teams from the region - is next on the Club’s agenda.
Moree could also now host a state final is also possible, thanks to the covered playing area.
Outside of its capacity to host prestigious competitions, there’s plenty of practical benefits to the new synthetic bowls surface and covered playing area.
Wesley said the LED lighting in the roof was making life so much easier for staff and safer for bowlers.
“Wednesday night is social bowls, we used to have to wait until the lights warmed-up about 30 to 45 minutes until we could play,” Wesley said.
“Then they’d attract every bug in town, the bowl would go down the green and there would be crickets jumping out of its way and kookaburra’s swooping for the crickets. And moths - the lights were a mass of moths. Now we have the LED lights, we have no bugs and no birds.”
There was also the ongoing issue of attracting and retaining a professional greenskeeper to tend to the natural “greens” as well as the annual six-to-eight week downtime dedicated to refurbishing the surface.
A synthetic “blue” playing surface requires some upkeep, but nothing compared to the previous green.
Moree Bowls Club Secretary Manager Robert Shields said the new surface and cover was a credit to the board of directors and their vision for the future of the town.
“The Board of Directors had a vision that we had to move on from what we previously had,” he said.
“We bit the bullet and decided we would produce something for the members and everyone in this Moree district and the community that is going to be sufficient to see them through the next 25, 30 or 100 years.”
It’s just an added benefit that the new “blue” surface matches the Moree Magpie team colours.
Moree Service Club
Explore how Enviroclass helped Moree Services Club create their ideal bowling green cover.