Council’s $20m drive for club

MELVILLE city council stands to reap a $20 million windfall if it sells prime property it owns in Alfred Cove.

Trouble is, the land is currently occupied by the Melville Bowling Club and the members aren’t keen on moving.

The club recently approached the council asking for a loan so it could install a synthetic green and update its clubrooms next to the Atwell Arts Centre on Canning Highway.

The council stunned the club by saying there’ll be no cash unless it agrees to shift to Tompkins Park, 300 metres down the road.

The council promises to sweeten the deal with swanky new clubrooms on Tompkins Park and installing a state-of-the-art synthetic green.

Tompkins Park is managed by Tompkins on Swan, an association of rugby union, touch rugby and cricket clubs, who share facilities. Council CEO Shayne Silcox says a move fits in with a city-wide plan to improve sports clubs’ sustainability and cater for their growth by looking at “optimal ground configurations and facility improvements”.

Dr Silcox says Melville faces “overuse of a number of its sporting reserves” but that’s not stopping him from wanting to shoe-horn the club onto grounds already shared between four codes (soccer clubs also play there).

The council is “working cooperatively” with the club says Dr Silcox. But president Gary Mac isn’t sounding as enthusiastic: he knows a shakedown when he sees one and warned his members the suggestion to move was “no idle threat”.

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He wasn’t keen on talking to the Herald but on the club’s website he refers to the council’s plan as “shutting us down and transferring our club”.

Bowling coach Ken Boyer is worried the club will lose players. He says synthetic grass might attract younger players but older members prefer soft grass for their dodgy knees and hips.

Defying Mr Mac’s exhortation not to speak to the press, a member described the proposal as unnecessary, and believes the council simply wants to rake in the cash. Any move will result in the club’s groundskeepers and bar staff being sacked and having to apply to Tompkins on Swan for their jobs.

“Why do I have to apply for my job again, when I’ve done it well for four years,” one staffer complained to the Herald.

The staffer is doubtful the new clubhouse will be a patch on the current home, and says replacing natural turf with a synthetic surface is short-sighted.

Dr Silcox says the council has no firm plans for the land currently occupied by the bowling club.

But it’s around a hectare of riverfront land, and with blocks going for around $1200 per square metre, that means it’s worth around $20m.

“The management model of a future facility is yet to be determined, and an initial meeting is scheduled to take place in December … with all user groups and stakeholders of Tompkins Park,” he says.

“At the end of the day our responsibility is to ratepayers across the City of Melville, in that we must maximise the utilisation of community assets at the lowest effective cost.”

by LAURA BIRCH

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