Historic bowls stadium under threat

Of the crown green bowls events and venues none has got near to the Waterloo Bowling Green in Blackpool. It is only at the Waterloo have thousands of spectators been safely looked after whilst watching the finest the sport has to offer. However unless an urgent appeal for funds is supported, and essential safety work completed, then the venue will almost certainly close.

The Waterloo Handicap was once a regular on TV screens and is thought of by many as the most prestigious trophy the sport has to offer. The venue is also regularly used by the sport’s national governing body (BCGBA) for its events. For anyone wanting to see some of the amazing games that have broadcast from the Waterloo then I recommend you go to either the Bowls Observer or to Andy Cairn’s YouTube channels.

Last season’s Waterloo Handicap finals day, recorded in detail on this site, was thought to be one of the finest in living memory and the competition claimed a first time winner in Congleton’s Paul Dale following on from Lynsey Gorman’s success in the Ladies event on the previous Sunday. The legendary Champions weekend in September saw Colin Kelly claim the men’s title for the Isle of Man and the Ladies event was suspended due to the green flooding and the players left in it will reassemble in 2021.

With the almost total abandonment of this year’s bowling season the Waterloo Management Committee has provided regular updates from the Waterloo, on the condition of the site, as they try to secure its future. From the early agreement with the owner of a new 10 year lease to the disturbing report on the structural issues identified in safety reports. It has all been made quite open to the visitors of the Waterloo Facebook page.

The repair of the structural problems facing the site will be costly and preliminary costs come to £60,000. The essential work covers all sides of the green and is mainly due to the apparent corrosive effect of the sea air on steel.

The survey of the North Stand, where the competition is run from and the scoreboards are used, has found the supporting steel-work is beyond repair. The entire stand will need to be demolished, complicated by substantial asbestos sheeting, and a decision made on whether some sort of replacement stand is possible.

The world famous Waterloo Hotel bowling green

The East Stand was demolished last year following damaged guttering caused water damage to the wooden supports but damage was also caused to the wall behind it has meant that this should be rebuilt.

The South Stand, the terracing where many including myself first experienced  the Waterloo Finals Day, needs the steel barriers, just about all of them, replacing. The exterior cladding which faces the car park should also be replaced.

The West Stand, the newest part of the venue was built in the 1980’s by the then owners Greenall Whitley, and was built to seat over 900 spectators also needs the steel work to either side replacing.

The building which holds the office and shop has a gantry used by anyone filming the bowls, a small hole in the gantry has been stepped over for years, and this and the rest of the supporting steel work needs to be replaced.

There may also be more funds need if extra problems are found if and when the work is started and the funds required dwarf the resources available to the Waterloo Management Committee who took over responsibility for the site shortly before last year’s finals week.

The Waterloo Committee has in the last few months launched a successful monthly 50/50 raffle which is projected to provide an income of over £1500 per month. If anyone would like details on how to join this please contact Phil McVittie (irissgift@yahoo.co.uk).

The committee has also welcomed the campaign started by Lynn Pritchatt which has so far attracted donations of over £11,000 in a little over 6 days. 

Lynn has also sought help from the national governing body who unfortunately are not able to provide financial support to an individual club or green. Lynn is also seeking support for a change in the funding of the sport’s governing body which would ensure funds are available in future to assist the Waterloo and depending on how the rule change is worded could also assist other venues.

This will require a change to the constitution of the BCGBA and will need the agreement of its member counties and some of them may have passed their own date where changes can be proposed.

However with the changes we have all had this year, as we negotiate around a global pandemic and with the recent indications that we are heading into a restricted autumn and winter, there is surely some doubt if the normal, or indeed any, national meeting could take place.

What is definitely not in doubt is the need for the Waterloo to raise the funds to complete the urgent essential work. If anyone can help or knows anyone who can help with the work please contact the Waterloo Committee or click here.

For many the highlight of the bowling season is that Saturday in September, the last 64 day of the Waterloo Handicap, and the start of the finals week. This has been the same for over a century and it will be a huge loss for the sport if the only stadium the sport has is forced to close.

About Steve Davies 134 Articles
Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game as well as a keen player of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Media Officer for the BCGBA, Merseyside champion in 2002 and Merseyside County President (2014-15) Steve has always been keen to promote the game especially through the broadcast of the game on TV or Internet. Steve set up the LIVE BOWLS YouTube channel which became the Bowls Observer channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report on and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine.