The cancellation of an interstate carnival held for more than 40 years in Batemans Bay has gutted bowlers, who say the local economy will lose 800 winter visitors.
Ron Geisler, a Batemans Bay Bowling Club member for 15 years, has organised several winter carnivals and said he was sickened when told just before Christmas the June event was cancelled.
“I felt sick in my stomach,” he said. “It has hurt a lot of people, not only here, but at other clubs and in other states. It was a prime event.”
He said that for 42 years the carnival had regularly attracted eight teams from Victoria and many from regional NSW.
“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “It has hurt me badly. I have run that carnival for four years.”
ClubCatalina took over the reins of the struggling Batemans Bay Bowling Club in 2009, and in December president Kim Odgers said the venue would “probably” continue to trade with reduced hours for the first half of 2013.
However, the winter carnival is traditionally held in June, before the end of the financial year, and bowlers fear the wider ramifications of its cancellation.
“They just don’t want us there,” Mr Geisler said.
Bowler Brian Vickers said management had promised after last year’s carnival that the event would continue this year.
“It brings people from interstate into the Bay, into the shops, cafes, caravan parks and motels.”
He said the cancellation was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in terms of bowlers’ relationship with management.
Yesterday four bowlers told the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner that they were among 15 bowlers angry at their treatment.
They said two other events, worth more than $30,000 to the club, had also been cancelled.
“There is no way of generating income for the club,” Mr Vickers said. “All they have is bowlers. They don’t have a restaurant, they don’t use the auditorium, the poker machines are taken away. We are being sold down the river. They are doing an asset strip.
“If they wanted to help, they would have put someone else into the restaurant and kept that going. They would be taking bookings for the auditorium. It seats 800 people compared to 160 at the Catalina.”
The bowlers said about 70 people had this week arrived at the club for a wake, but had left when they learned there was no restaurant. They said on December 30, 33 barefoot bowlers waiting to play paid games waited for lengthy periods, as no staff were available. Some left in protest.
A bowler contacted the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner yesterday and said staff had just been told that leisure club events could no longer be advertised on the electronic board outside.
Trading hours were curbed at 5pm before Christmas.