- To access all of your local news, visit newcastleherald.com.au directly. Our home page is updated with the latest headlines from across the region and the nation.
- You can even stay up to date by clicking here and signing up for free to our newsletters.
- If you value local journalism, support us by subscribing here
- To download the Newcastle Herald app, click here
The last president of the now defunct Belmont-Macquarie Bowling club lives only a few blocks from his old stomping ground, and has watched for years as the once-vibrant social club fell into dereliction and disrepair.
The windows that lined the front of the old bowling club, looking out over the greens where the magpies would land under the sprinklers on a sunny afternoon, were broken by vandals and the inside ransacked long before the fire destroyed what was left of the building on the weekend.
"It had been let go something terrible," David Burchell of Belmont recalled. "It's a shame after all the work we put into it."
Police were speaking with residents of the area on Monday as they investigate the cause of a suspicious fire that gutted the rundown premises on Sunday night.
In its heyday, the Belmont-Macquarie was renowned for its champion bowlers, including a strong ladies contingent of around 200 active bowlers.
"At one time it was the largest ladies club in the Newcastle district," Ian Barrett - a long-serving member and bowler at the club told the Newcastle Herald Monday. Mr Barrett, of Floraville, served the club as greenkeeper for around 15 years starting in the mid-1970s, and remembers the club as a vibrant social hub.
"We had three full greens nearly every day," Mr Barrett said. "It was really thriving."
By lucky coincidence, Mr Barrett was able to salvage a number of the club's boards in the past few months, preserving years of history, after the premises fell into dilapidation since the former Sporties club was placed into voluntary administration in 2018.
In 2000, the Belmont-Macquarie amalgamated with the Sporties and the former bowling club's organising body was condensed into to a seat on the Sporties board. Mr Burchell resigned that post in 2013, effectively marking the end of the bowling club's more than 50-year history.
Following its voluntary administration, the greater neighbouring premises has since been leased to numerous businesses, including a security training agency and a church, all of which survived the fire. Last year, developers applied to Lake Macquarie Council to turn the site into an aged care facility.
The fire of Sunday night has destroyed the dilapidated bowling club, which is owned by Arcare Pty Ltd - an aged care provider in NSW, Queensland and Victoria. According to the most recent reports that part of the site had DA approval for 42 independent seniors living units. The Herald has approached Arcare for comment.
IN THE NEWS: