THE man who turned around the fortunes of the ailing Bayswater bowling and recreation club has stepped down as president.
When Steve Lay returned to the club in 2015 they had no social members and the books were in a dire state.
“It was in more trouble than the early explorers,” Mr Lay says.
Within two years of coming back he had increased turnover by 400 per cent and they now have 2800 members.
Mr Lay spearheaded the push for the club to diversify and become a community hub.
It wasn’t long before they were the venue for the street roller hockey league, had a community garden and were holding popular music and food nights.
Mr Lay said getting the community involved “was always one of my goals from day one”.
He said a club’s longevity relies on bringing in younger members, but he did face some resistance from long-termers who weren’t keen on change.
“There was a group that left after I got there, because they didn’t like the change,” he says.
“Most clubs are protective of their turf, they don’t like rocking the boat…you’ve got to open it up to the community, to have them come with their families.”
The revamped club was an overnight success and the first Sunday session in February 2015 attracted 350 adults, many with their kids in tow.
The club hadn’t seen so many people in decades and a few months later at the AGM they made Mr Lay president: “They pinned the tail on the donkey, and I was president all of a sudden.”
Later in the year when the street roller hockey league started using the club, the youngsters and old-timers got on well, and bar sales rocketed from thirsty players wanting a post-game beer.
Last year the Morley community garden’s lease wasn’t renewed by Bayswater council. Garden founder Pat Lim said she was heartbroken, but the bowls club offered them a spot at their site, and in September last year the community garden re-opened with Ms Lim calling it “a dream come true”.
Mr Lay says he decided to step down as president because his real estate business Lay2 is picking up and he’s running short on hours.
“It’s taking more and more time. I want to put in 100 per cent, and if I can’t? I don’t want to just be the figurehead, I want to be hands on.”
Mr Lay says “I’m sure the club will keep growing” under new president Mark Cameron. The community garden’s still looking for more green thumbs: Head down to 58 Murray Street or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re keen on growing some communal veggies.
by DAVID BELL