HARD times have hit the WA Portuguese Club which is trying to sell up and move out of Fremantle.
The club, which was established 50 years ago, has put its 8000sqm land holding in Beaconsfield on the market for about $8 million and hopes to build a new ethnic hub elsewhere, including a Catholic church, school, indoor sports and welfare centre, community hall and soccer academy.
The Beaconsfield site has ocean views and is zoned R100.
Club president John dos Santos says when Fremantle Spirit Soccer Club stopped using soccer pitches beside the club 20 years ago, its fortunes declined.
“We had three people in the other day and on Saturday the bar only took $60,” he says.
“When the soccer left it killed us; there was no drawcard for people after that.
“The maintenance alone on the building is around $30,000 a year.
“We have 400 members, but attendance is poor.”
Club officials are looking at potential sites with Cockburn council, including the corner of Russell and Rockingham roads in Munster.
Cockburn has a significant Portuguese community, but Mr dos Santos hasn’t ruled out moving to Melville, which is also popular with Portuguese immigrants.
Club officials say Freo’s real estate is too expensive and there aren’t any big sites left for its proposed hub, but mayor Brad Pettitt is hopeful he can keep the historic club in the city.
“Fremantle Council is keen to find the Portuguese Club a new home in Fremantle and has been having regular, constructive discussions with them about this,” he says.
“They have had a long history in Beaconsfield but there may be an opportunity to bring them closer to the Fremantle CBD, which we are excited about.”
Mario De Silva Antonio, one of the club’s first secretaries, says the new centre would galvanise the Portuguese community.
“The centre would unite all the former Portuguese speaking colonies, including Africa, Timor and Goa, and be a home for the Portuguese Catholic association and its multicultural organisation,” he says.
“But it wouldn’t just be for Portuguese people and the facilities would be available to everyone in the community.
“We have some of the best young soccer players in WA and would love to create a soccer academy.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK