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The future of iconic Sale club in doubt

Thu, Feb 28, 10:07am by Staff Writer

A club in Sale is facing an uncertain future and hoping a sell-off of assets will help it stay afloat. The Lakeside Club is riddled with debt, leaving new board chairman Ian Jones struggling with a total $2 million debt and a “significant tax liability.”

The club was formed in 2009 when the Sale Community Sports Club merge with the Sale Bowls Club and took on a $1 million debt to redevelop the Guthridge Parade facility.

According to The Gippsland Times, as part of the redevelopment, 33 poker machines were installed.

Mr Jones informed business stakeholders that the board should be in a position to make a definitive decision about the club’s future by mid-April.

He comes from a management background prior to taking on the role of board chairman.

The addition of 33 poker machines had not been the ‘panacea’ the board had hoped for according to Mr Jones, who concedes that some costly mistakes had been made in the past, such as taking on the catering contract at Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club.

He has called upon the Wellington Shire Council to consider “its obligations to the community”, after it rejected a proposal to buy the club out.

He went on to criticise the council’s decision a decade ago not to renew the Sale Community Sport Club’s lease, which had been trading successfully.

“The council forced the merger in the first place because it wasn’t prepared to renew the lease of the ‘Sporties Club’,” he said.

“I’d like to challenge the council on what their role is if they are not supporting community clubs.”

Council hit back

A council spokesperson said it wasn’t “in the business of purchasing gaming venues and a direct cash bail-out is not something our ratepayers would support.”

However, she said the council was looking at the information provided by the club and would provide feedback to them shortly.

Wellington Shire mayor Alan Hall told ABC Radio on Wednesday morning that council had not ruled out buying part of the club’s land which abuts Aqua Energy, but it was not considering it because a formal business proposal had not been received.

Mr Jones said another option the board was considering was to sell “shares” to private investors, but a previous offer to members to pre-pay $2,000 of their annual memberships was shelved because of the club’s financial position.

“We did offer what we called the ‘$2,000 club” memberships at one stage, but we felt it wasn’t something we could continue to pursue given the club’s viability,” he said.

The board now consists of five new members elected last November, that are committed to the community and doing everything they can to continue to provide a facility for “everyone” in the shire.

“Every business makes mistakes at some point, and we believe we can overcome these problems,” he said.

Mr Jones said the Lakeside Club held a firm place in the hearts and minds of Wellington Shire locals.

“There isn’t really anything quite like this facility in the shire – it’s a premier sports and dining venue and we hope the council will recognise its importance.

Mr ones said the club’s assets included one grass and two synthetic bowling greens, and a decommissioned green, which could be used as extra parking space for the swimming and fitness facility next door.

Sale Bowls Club formed in 1896 and is one of the oldest bowls clubs in the state and has 2,700 general members.

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