Catherine Hill Bay Bowling and Community Club will be given a “last hurrah” on Saturday before being demolished, but the long-term use of the coastal site remains unclear despite plans for a new multi-use community facility.
The club – built by locals and opened in 1954 – was closed by Lake Macquarie council in December because of asbestos contamination. It was slated for demolition this month.
The club had faced various financial battles over the years and closed briefly before being leased off council by community members in 2012.
Up until its closure in December, it had mainly been run by volunteers who focused on social bowls, raffles and hosting events, including weddings.
Now the picturesque club and its storied history is set to have one last community interaction on Saturday at ‘Farewell Catho Bowlo’.
Catherine Hill Bay resident and club licensee Nancy Smyth said from 11am to 5pm there would be “paddock bowls”, market stalls, a silent auction, and live music from 1.30pm.
“We’ve got several hundred old bowls so we’re inviting everyone to come and pick up a bowl and throw one down the green for the last time,” she said.
The sudden closure last summer forced the cancellation of some pre-booked events, and Ms Smyth said funds raised from the silent auction would go towards the club’s outstanding debts.
“There’s some lovely old pictures that we had framed and mounted on the wall,” she said.
“We’re going to auction them off and a few bits and pieces.
“We’ve got a couple of drink fridges, chairs, tables and bowls stuff. A fairly wide assortment.”
Lake Macquarie council is seeking approval from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to demolish the building and now expects that to occur later this year or in early 2019.
The council listed a new multi-use facility as a piece of proposed infrastructure in the Belmont Catchment Contributions Plan, which was adopted in May.
The plan lists 2023-28 as a time frame for development of a new facility, but a council spokesperson said on Friday an exact time would “not be known until further detailed work is undertaken”.
“In the short term, the site will be returned to natural parkland as it is used as a popular wedding ceremony location,” the council spokesperson said.
“Over the coming years, council will collect $7.3m from Local Development Contributions to create a multi-purpose community and sporting facility, with car parking and connecting shared pathways.
“Council has identified this project as being medium priority within the [BCCP]; however, this depends on the rate of development in the area and any approvals required for the proposed facility.”
Rose Group want to press ahead with further stages of Beaches development and there are about 200 houses already, or nearly built, in the estate.
At the northern end of the town, land bought by Darren Nicholson last year from Coal & Allied came with an approved 220 lot subdivision, which could be developed in coming years.
The Herald also reported in June of Mr Nicholson’s idea to relocate Catho pub to the bowling club site.
Catherine Hill Bay Progress Association president Sue Whyte said any new “integrated multi-use facility” must “offer everything that we had before plus more” in order to cater for the suburb’s population boom.
“The population of Catherine Hill Bay is set to rise within the next 15 years by 1300 per cent,” she said.
“It’s an enormous amount of people and we have to have the facilities to cater for them.”
She said the CHBPA was “currently writing to council to try and get some clarity” as there had been a bit of conjecture about whether the surf club would be upgraded to include new community space, or a new facility built on the bowling club site.
“The facilities at the northern end have to be built before the surf club,” she said.
“The new surf club is going to have to be moved back because it is in a hazard zone, but it is not falling into the sea in the next 15 years.
“We’d like to have playing areas, change rooms, desperately need toilets around graveyard beach, and want to have a bowling green and other activities.”
Ms Smyth said the closed club was “sadly missed” by locals who enjoyed Sundays either on, or by the green.
“We don’t have a community facility anymore,” she said.
“Council seem pretty sincere about their hope to develop it with the sports field and bowling green.
“Hopefully that’s what is going to happen.”
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