Sport and Health

Sumner Bowling Club – Ready for Another 100 Years

Eight to nine years after the big three earthquakes in Canterbury in September 2010, February 2011 and June 2011, things are almost getting back to ‘normal’ in the charming Christchurch seaside suburb of Sumner.

The container walls holding back the crumbling weet-bix cliffs are gone. The Evans Pass road to Lyttelton has reopened. The iconic Cave Rock has survived health & safety scrutiny. And recently, a swish new clubhouse was opened at the Sumner Bowling Club.

It seems about time. After all, the earthquakes were a long time ago. Particularly when you realise there were no ‘Insta’ photos recording the first earthquake – Instagram had yet to be invented!

But as Abraham Maslow once observed when he was doodling with his hierarchical pyramids, Cantabrians have had a lot more to think about than a Sunday drive over Evans Pass, a clamber up Cave Rock or the redevelopment of their bowling clubs.


The impressive new Sumner Bowling Club pavilion

The new Sumner Bowling Club facility, recently opened formally by the local Member of Parliament, Ruth Dyson and Life Member and Patron, Alan Lavell, is superb.

But it’s been a labour of love getting there, particularly when club members have had their own personal trauma to deal with. “Our home on Clifton Hill was badly damaged,” says outgoing Club President, Bill Pringle, “so it’s been a major getting that repaired, let alone worrying about the club.”

But Bill typifies the ‘can do’ attitude of many Cantabrians, and while dealing with his own personal situation, was also determined to complete the redevelopment of the club before he passed the baton on to a new President. It’s been a long journey, which started back in 2010.

“We weren’t damaged by the September 2010 quake,” recalls Bill. “It was more out west. All we were concerned about at the time was whether Christchurch’s historic first ‘skyscraper’, the Manchester Unity Building, would be repaired or demolished!”

However, things got serious with the February 2011 earthquake. 185 people were killed. And the word ‘liquefaction’ entered the Kiwi vernacular.

“One of our members was practising on the green when it suddenly erupted with liquefaction,” says Bill. “The clubhouse was damaged, and boulders started falling from the crumbling cliffs behind the clubhouse.”

“We managed to get the clubhouse green-stickered after a couple of weeks, and we still had two undamaged rinks to continue playing. As soon as the season finished, a Canterbury Earthquake Trust grant allowed us to plane the green and get it back in action again.”

Then the third June 2011 earthquake struck.


All hands on deck clearing the liquefaction on the green.

The Sumner green was back to square one – the levels were out of kilter again, and more liquefaction dotted the green. Until the green could be repaired again, it meant the Sumner Bowling Club was going to have to spend the 2011/2012 summer season elsewhere.

“The Woolston Bowling Club invited us to use their facilities,” says Bill. “They had been used as the headquarters for the 1974 Commonwealth Games, and had three greens. The Woolston Club made greenspace and clubspace available for us to continue to play and socialise as a ‘temporary permanently visiting’ club. It was extremely kind of them.”

Completion of the green repairs meant the club was back at Sumner in 2012/2013. And the membership of 70 bowlers realised that the time was also right to consider a new clubhouse.

After numerous consents and geotech reports, the old clubhouse was eventually demolished in the winter of 2018 to make way for the new Sam Lim-designed pavilion.

“We used the machinery shed as a clubhouse over the 2018/2019 season while the new one was being built. There was no bar – members brought their own grog. But it worked well. The only problem was that the construction fence was hard up against one side of the green, so it meant we could only play one way. We all got a little pickety about the way it affected our game!”

The new clubhouse has been well worth waiting for. “We’re looking forward to the 2019/2020 season,” says Bill. “I think we’ll find there’s a lot more people enjoying the club with what we have now.”

Who knows. Maybe in 2112, they’ll be celebrating the club bi-centenary there!

Published with permission from Bowls New Zealand

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