It’s one of the few sports you can play after your knees have gone wonky, says 78-year-old Bill Davis.
And yet the beauty of lawn bowling is part of the reason Toronto bowlers say it has an image problem: the game just isn’t popular with the young folks.
“When they go by a lawn bowling club they see a geriatric crowd out there,” said Davis, a retired financial officer. “People say, ‘I’ll do that when I can’t do anything else.’ It’s a depressing response.”
A proposed solution to bowler woes? Booze. Not for drowning sorrows, but as a way to bring in a younger crowd.
A motion to consider allowing city-run lawn bowling clubs to sell alcohol and stay open later is set to go to committee next week and to city council in July.
“The idea of somebody on a hot summer’s evening tossing a few bowls and sipping a gin and tonic is not a bad one, to me,” said Councillor Gord Perks, who seconded the motion, brought forward in May by Councillor Adam Vaughan.
The potential fix comes during a particularlytough year for Toronto clubs. A decline in membership coupled with new annual fees imposed by the city this year has left some clubs struggling to stay afloat.
Davis’s 30-member Moore Park Lawn Bowling Club, near St. Clair Ave. E. and Mount Pleasant Rd., is in danger of closing. Members say the club won’t be able to cover the new $3,000 permit fee.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has put forward a motion to scrap the fee for lawn bowlers. The Moore Park crew is hopeful it will be
reversed.In the meantime, they continue to play.
Sporting a Tilley hat, dark shades and socks pulled halfway up his calves, Davis welcomed surprise guests to the club Wednesday — a pair of under-30s.
Sam Polley, 20, and Miles Vitko, 19, stumbled upon the club as they searched for heat-beating lemonade. After a quick lesson from Davis, they stayed for a game.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Vitko. “I don’t know anyone who plays this.”
The beginners say they could see their friends getting together for a bowl.
“I think it just takes a few people to get something like this going,” said Polley.
They agree that beer might help get a good crowd out, but Vitko and Polley say they’ll be back on their own for a game with the regulars, with or without alcohol.
Longtime members chuckled at the idea of a booze-soaked bowl. For them, the club is just a place to play the game.
“I think beer or liquor will be of more help to the clubs with a big facility,” Davis says. He isn’t sure his own club’s rustic quarters would get a lot of interest from young crowds looking for a fun weekend hangout — even if they were serving beer.
With 35 members, the West Toronto Lawn Bowling Club in Baird Park isn’t much bigger than its Moore Park counterpart. But Steve Shallhorn, West Toronto’s vice-president, is more hopeful about the liquor licensing idea.
“I think that it would help attract new members..”