BALLINA BID TO BECOME SUPER CLUB
By DAWN COHEN
WATERFRONT apartments, a leisure and entertainment centre, retail outlets, upmarket restaurants and trendy lounges are part of a multi-million dollar vision for the Ballina RSL Club.
Yesterday, the Ballina RSL Club released an architect's master plan for redeveloping the club in four phases. There is no commitment to proceed yet because the phases are being presented to members as options.
And the controversial plan to re-develop the Ballina RSL Bowling Club has been put on the back-burner.
Artists' impressions of the revamped waterfront and architects plans are on public view in the club's reception area. Details have been sent to club members in the newsletter, Club Life.
The first priority is a revamp of the club's ground floor, including outdoor smoking areas, a riverfront public walkway, a more exciting foyer, a revamped waterfront terrace and lounge dining areas, emphasising river views. The River Street car park will be also transformed into an integrated retail, entertaining, hospitality and leisure environment.
Upmarket apartments will link into the existing club.
The final stage of the revamp will include new sports and TAB facilities fronting the river and a trendy lounge bar and restaurant catering to a younger demographic.
The controversial conversion of the RSL Club's Canal Street bowling greens into senior living apartments remains an option, listed as the third priority, but it has been put on the back-burner.
"The board has decided to put the RSL Bowling Club (redevelopment) option on hold while it further examines the sustainability of the recent improvement in trading at that venue," Ballina RSL Club general manager Bill Coulter said.
The bold plans come on the eve of the board elections, starting in a fortnight.
In July, when the Ballina RSL Club announced it had commissioned architects for the master plan, the board reiterated its desire to close its bowling club to solve a potential cash-flow problem caused by the new NSW poker machine tax.
Consequently, a team of up to eight pro-bowling club candidates is contesting the election to save the Ballina RSL Bowling Club.
"I have no doubt the board changed its mind on the bowling club because of what we and other bowlers have done to raise awareness of what was happening," ticket leader Patrick Kearney said.
"They are back-peddling. But they could certainly change their minds again, after the election."
However, Mr Coulter denies the move is an election ploy.
"The bowling club's financial performance has been improving and we are very happy with that," he said.
"If the NSW Government does not change the gaming tax we will have to review it but at this stage we don't intend to close it. We have always wanted to keep it going, if it wasn't for the taxes."
Mr Coulter said costs for the redevelopment had not been established, but the club would need to borrow money to pay for it. A joint venture partner also would also be sought.
While the board is committed to the principle of the development, members' views would be considered, he said.
He confirmed the redevelopment would not extend beyond its eastern footprint into Fawcett Park.
Ballina Shire Council general manager John Christopherson said the development would have to be assessed when an application was submitted.