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Raymond Terrace Bowling Club redevelopment to be ‘envy’ of others

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A $39 million redevelopment will ensure the Raymond Terrace Bowling Club is the envy of its counterparts for decades to come.

The sporting organisation’s cooperative recently submitted plans to Port Stephens Council for the innovative three-stage proposal, which have now been referred to the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel.

If successful, the Jacaranda Avenue site will not only boast a six-storey 50-room hotel, restaurant, bar, pool, gym, function and office space, but a state-of-the-art bowling facility capable of hosting national and international tournaments, bringing thousands of tourists to the region.

According to designers EJE Architecture, the development is “based on new urban principles and aims to be a catalyst for activation along Swan Street, as well as the local township of Raymond Terrace”.

“It’s been a little while in the making but it’s getting to the exciting part now,” chairman Brett Gleeson said.

“We were the first club in the Southern Hemisphere to have covered synthetic greens, about 17-18 years ago, and that put us on the map.

“However, this expansion is going to take us to the next level.

“At the end of the day, that’s the trajectory of bowls.

“So, this redevelopment will position us really well for the future – 10, 20 years down the track – after it’s completed.”

Mr Gleeson admitted there were two main reasons behind the thought process of the concept.

Currently, Raymond Terrace Bowling Club consists of a single-storey building, three bowling greens and a car park.

“One is the clubhouse itself,” he said.

“It’s quite outdated and requires some major renovations and upgrades.

“The other [purpose] is to place us where bowls and the club industry is heading in general.

“Research we obtained informed our decision-making in terms of what people want from clubs, apart from just being a bowling club.

“We’re the only club for probably 20-to-30 kilometres, at least, so we’ve got to position ourselves for the growth of the Raymond Terrace community and beyond.

“Basically, it’s a combination of ‘now’s the time for an upgrade’ and ‘thinking about our future’, which hasn’t happened for a while.

“Once we did the strategic plan (three years ago), we developed the masterplan, which has led to the exciting part, the DA.

“The Raymond Terrace Bowling Club is also turning 100 in 2032, so we’d love to have everything finished by 2030… in time for that big celebration.”

There are opportunities out there and, if we don’t grab them, someone else will.

Brett Gleeson

The development will take place over three stages, with the first focusing on the clubhouse upgrade, followed by the greens themselves and, finally, the pièce de resistance, the main project, which encompasses the restaurant.

“We’re hoping to start work on the clubhouse as soon as we can,” Mr Gleeson told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Once we get the DA approved, we can kick-start things pretty quickly… appoint builders etc.

“The second phase will be about the greens.

“That’s one of the nice things about this proposal, we’re going to integrate them into the club.

“They’re not going to be two separate parts.

“It’s a concept I discovered up at Pine Rivers in Brisbane, which I thought was fantastic.

“Stage three, of course, is the big job.

“Once everything’s completed, Raymond Terrace BC will be pretty well self-contained.

“We’ll have the bowling facility, the club facility and the accommodation covered as well.

“I’m not being derogatory, but there haven’t been any new motels built in town for about 40 years.

“It’s about time we did something about it.

“So, this – 50-room accommodation – will be our crowning glory, plus a conference centre and restaurant that looks out over the river and towards Thornton, with great sunsets.

“It is a smart move, strategically, with two major highways nearby and the (Newcastle) airport, which is extending to incorporate an international terminal.

“We’ve got two courtesy buses as well; they could go out as far as Williamtown.

“And, if that’s the case, there’s no reason why we can’t provide some accommodation packages with transport.

“It opens the door for so many things, plus the staging of major bowls competitions with the stars of the game both locally and abroad.

“I’ve been on the board for 12 years, however we needed to become a bit more progressive.

“We can’t just say ‘we’re okay’ and be happy with that.

“We are alright for now, but that might not be the case in five, or 10, years’ time.

“There are opportunities out there and, if we don’t grab them, someone else will.”

Raymond Terrace won the Bowls NSW grade 1 pennant in 2023.

Raymond Terrace’s eye on the future also complements the club’s brilliant lawn bowls record, which makes it one of the strongest in the state.

In 2023, the organisation picked up the grade 1 title, beating Soldiers Point 54-48, and the grade 2 crown, courtesy of a 75-47 win over Mudgee.

On top of that, Raymond Terrace was named Bowls NSW Club of the Year, with Lee Schraner picking up Male Bowler of the Year.

Natasha Van Eldik and Zoe Nichols were nominated for Female Bowler of the Year and Junior Bowler of the Year respectively, too.

Then there’s the countless representative players in its midst.

“We’re the first club ever to win grade 1 (at Forster) and 2 (at Ballina) in the same year,” Mr Gleeson said.

“We also had grade 4 playing at Tamworth.

“All up, we fielded six teams, with three going through to the NSW finals, which is a 50% strike rate.

“Then, to have two of them go on to capture state flags is unprecedented.

Raymond Terrace won the Bowls NSW grade 2 pennant in 2023.

“We boast state and Australian reps while a lot of people who live in the Hunter travel to Raymond Terrace to play for us due to the quality of the club, the quality of the competition, which is great.”

And, that success shows no sign of slowing down either.

“One thing we’ve done well over the past 15 or so years is establishing the Jets Junior Academy,” Mr Gleeson said.

“We have poured a significant amount of money into that… and it’s paying dividends.

“We’re kitting the kids out in their own uniforms and providing bowls to set them up.

“Bowls can cost between $650 and $700, which is huge; it’s more than a tennis racquet.

“Helping alleviate that financial burden is probably why we’re seeing so many youngsters enjoying the sport and making junior state and national sides and development squads.

“In terms of the seniors, we’ve got NSW and Australian reps in every discipline.

“Now, the other clubs are trying to catch up.

“That’s certainly a credit to those involved in our bowling program… and one we’re proud of.”

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