Future of Waterloo bowling in Blackpool hangs in the balance again despite huge fundraising effort

The future of crown green bowling at the historic Waterloo stadium in Blackpool is again under threat, despite the success of a public appeal to raise urgent funds for building work.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:30 pm

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The appeal, launched last September, has hit its £75,000 target to replace the south stand and undertake major construction work in other parts of the 114-year-old South Shore venue.

But despite an overwhelming public response, the Waterloo’s bowling committee have encountered another problem in negotiating a new lease with the owners of the site, meaning all donations could now be refunded.

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The Autumn Waterloo was last contested in 2019

They have so far been unable to agree a lease for longer than 10 years but feel more security of tenure is necessary to justify the expense of the redevelopment.

Gary Ellis, five-time winner of the Waterloo Handicap and co-ordinator of the bowling campaign, told The Gazette: “It’s a big project and we have the money but we need to have the right lease. And the best position we want to get to is not the best position for the owner. I understand his viewpoint because he does not get a lot of benefit from the stadium.”

A statement issued by Gary adds: “Based on the level of investment/expenditure we are required to make on the stadium in order to continue, we decided that we require a long-term lease to secure the Waterloo’s future as a bowls venue. The owner has said he is only comfortable in agreeing a 10-year lease, with us having no security of tenure beyond that.

“This length of lease (or a shorter one) wouldn’t be a problem if the day one expenditure was nothing or minimal, but it’s not acceptable based on expenditure of £75K+.

“At this stage we are not hopeful of there being a solution. We are going to stop all expenditure on The Waterloo with immediate effect.

“We are sat on a lot of money in the bank account from Go Fund Me donations, other private donations and money raised from 50/50 draw.

“If there is no change to the above position, we will be returning all donations. We are probably going to see how things pan out over the rest of the summer, however, before we start that process.”

The Watlerloo’s most prestigious tournament, the Autumn Handicap, was last staged in 2019 before the pandemic brought tournaments to a halt.

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