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Irate at the rates

After more than 149 years of bowling Sydney’s oldest lawn bowls club in inner-city Balmain says it has serious concerns about the cripplingly high rates and ongoing maintenance costs the club now faces.

Balmain Bowling Club which first opened in 1880, owns its own property in the middle of a former industrial area where land prices have now reached exorbitant levels.

Due to the zoning of the club it may be forced to pay $65,000 in rates this financial year to Sydney’s Inner West Council, Balmain say this is vastly different to the $14,500 paid by Gladstone Park Bowling Club which is situated just 600 metres down the road.

Balmain is fighting for its life despite its important place in history, although it increased its membership by more than 305 per cent to the club in just 18 months, maintenance, electricity costs and overheads continue to rise.

“Our land which we own is extraordinarily valuable and we’re trying to raise some capital to ensure we continue into the future and make our 150-year milestone and beyond,” Balmain board member Paul Cooper told the ABC.

“We have to fight to find a solution to ensure it and other clubs like ours remain viable into the future. [Labor politician] Tom Uren, the most famous son of Balmain — his wake was held at Balmain Bowling Club.

“That sort of history cannot be thrown out the back door.”

Club president Ross Craig remains extremely positive about the club’s future and says Darcy Byrne the mayor of the Inner West Council has been supportive of the club and both parties are exploring different options to ensure the club can continue to operate.

“Despite the high rates, the future looks bright and with the increase in membership and the support from our barefoot bowling customers the club will continue to support the Balmain community for many years to come,” Craig said.

Balmain is trying not to be part of a worrying trend in Sydney which has around 100 clubs in the area, as 89 bowling clubs have disappeared within the last 10 years in NSW, with others also following suit elsewhere around the country despite record participation levels.

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