by Alan Stevens and John Leonard
Alan Stevens, John Leonard
This is a story about adapting to changing times and rising to challenges. Through the story of our clubhouse we are reminded of why Scottish club continues to evolve and grow when many others do not.
The most recent renovations to the club, including some unanticipated additional work, are just another page in our rich history. The club has beneﬁtted from the vision, commitment and expertise of many of our members over the past 95 years. It also has often been at the cutting edge of the delivery of organised sport, and is again through our partnership with Mt Vic Dojo. Patron Alan Stevens take us back to the early days of the clubhouse then John Leonard brings us up to speed.
Where have we come from
For the ﬁrst four decades of our existence the Saturday club runs were mainly held from supporters homes (great afternoon teas!), and church halls. Training runs were generally from the Boys Institute in Tasman Street, just up from the Basin Reserve. The sealed path around the ﬁeld at the Basin was a regular“speed session”venue for many years, with painted marks for the various distances.
In 1931 a contingency fund was set up with an initial 30 pounds. 75 percent of net proﬁts from each season were placed in “The Building Fund”. A highly successful annual Ball helped our income. In 1940 the NZ Centennial Exhibition was staged at Rongotai and the club operated a sideshow called “Breaking up the Happy Home”. The irrepressible Fred Silver was a commercial traveller and scoured the country’s hotels and railway refreshment rooms for obsolete or cracked crockery. Our stall had endless chains with cups, plates and saucers etc and for 6d you could throw 6 wooden balls and smash them up!
From the proﬁt, 350 pounds was loaned to the Government war eﬀort as an interest free loan.
At the 1951 AGM the need for our own training venue was identiﬁed and a sub-committee set up. In 1953 a suitable building was found on Aotea Quay. The Council oﬀered us the lease on a site at the Southern end of the Prince of Wales Park turf (which is part of the Town Belt). We had very few tradesmen in the club, but under the persuasive guidance of Peter Kennedy the hard work started. The building was carefully cut into numbered sections, carted up to the park then manhandled up onto the site. There are many stories from the reconstruction by the “enthusiastic amateurs” – mismatched sections, hair raising near misses and weekends spent toiling away – the project was aﬀectionately known as “Kennedy’s Mistake”.
In 1954 we were able to have the ﬁrst run from our Clubrooms – albeit only partially ﬁnished, yet possibly the ﬁrst harrier club in New Zealand to have their own home. It was a narrow hall with a small kitchen at the end and a toilet and shower adjacent. It served us well for many years, but as our membership grew it became quite cramped. We had no women members at that stage, but any lady supporters had to be squashed into the kitchen whilst the men showered!
By 1967 it had become obvious that we needed a larger home. This was driven by a very enthusiastic Club Captain, Garnet Nelson and a lot of fundraising. We had a monopoly on delivering circulars (before commercial contractors) on our training runs.
Through “contacts”we also successfully tendered to demolish houses – a standard early 1900s house we could clear in a weekend.
A club Vice President was also a member of the Khandallah Tennis Club – one of the ﬁrst to build squash courts – the new trend of the time. He suggested we incorporate some in a new clubhouse that could then provide a ﬁnancial base to build on.
We were fortunate that we had two members with professional expertise – Bruce Connor was GM of a major construction ﬁrm and Graham Naish was an architect. The Council leased us a new site behind the then caretaker’s house and under Bruce’s guidance plans for new clubrooms were drawn up to also incorporate two squash courts.
The opening of the harrier season in 1971 was held from our new Clubhouse with much fanfare, pipe band, press coverage and attendance of the Fire Brigade!! As the ﬁrst time the showers had operated to full capacity the water heater had burnt through’ the ﬂoor! [De ja vu anyone. Ed]
So we luxuriated in our brand new home. As anticipated (build it and they will come), squash enthusiasts ﬂocked to join. Most new squash clubs were set up by potential members having to take out debentures to build the premises, unlike Scottish. Also being handy to downtown, folk could nip up for a quick game and so consequently our courts were in use from early in the morning until late at night. With all these squash members some harriers complained that they were strangers in our own clubrooms! The response was always that we had a facility that we could never have aﬀorded on our own.
In the mid 1970s we again needed more space and an improvement in the layout. Another major factor was the prosecution of many sports clubs for the illegal sale of alcohol. Whilst we harriers had some social functions and maybe a beer after a Saturday run, the squash section were regularly having drinks after their games. As the current President I was determined that our Club was not going to appear in the press for the wrong reasons. Again we had very able members to drive the project, resulting in the extension northwards with a large storeroom downstairs and upstairs a kitchen, committee room/ library, a fully enclosed and licenced bar and a viewing gallery to the squash courts. The extended clubhouse was opened in 1980. The club was a bustling place and I recall one Wednesday night after a training run we held a committee meeting, the squash courts were in operation, in the main lounge they were conducting umpires exams and at the conclusion we all joined together for a drink and supper. The then Director of Parks held us up as a great example of multiple use of a facility on a Council Park.
A number of factors impacted on squash in the 1990s: former World Champion Susan Devoy retired, they lost major sponsors, and in particular gyms became fashionable for exercise and squash clubs lost members. We were particularly vulnerable, being only small – two courts, not a standalone squash club and now overshadowed by the major clubs in our area. Our membership declined dramatically, the lack of court use altered the ﬁnancial dynamics of the clubhouse and we had to now fully fund the operational costs. Major savings were made, including abandoning the liquor licence, removing the bar and reducing utility costs. By 2008 there were only 22 squash members, making the squash section unviable.
Fast forward to 2009
By 2009 Scottish club needed to address a number of signiﬁcant issues and changes including the declining squash membership, the growth in women harrier members, an under-utilised clubhouse facility and the need to increase income to meet rising operating costs.
The club responded in two ways; by commissioning a changing room upgrade that replaced the showers and toilets and made the women’s changing room signiﬁcantly larger, and negotiating a licence with Mt Victoria Kyokushin Karate Dojo (MVD) for use of the upstairs and one squash court for ten years which would generate $31,800 income per annum. The licence with MVD was established to make use of time that Scottish does not use the clubhouse.
Yet again the club beneﬁtted from having ‘in-club’ professional expertise to drive this complex project (the committee included John Leonard, Todd Stevens, Jo Badham, David Cooke) which included negotiating a range of contracts and particularly renegotiating the terms of the Council lease.
The changing room upgrade had a budget of $170,000 and was tendered and contracted to Fletcher Construction. It started on 1 December and was planned to ﬁnish by 1 March this year. In early February all building was on track. MVD were operating and Fletchers had almost completed the changing room upgrade. However, on 9 February a ﬁre destroyed the kitchen and supper room. The ﬁre was the result of items being left on the top of the stove which had been turned on at a time when the clubhouse had no electricity. When the electricity was turned back on, the stove became live and the ﬁre started. Heat, smoke and water severely damaged the rest of the upstairs and smoke damaged the downstairs.
The cost of repairs (provisionally estimated in the region of $300,000) was covered by insurance and is expected to be completed for all but the kitchen and supper room by 1 May and should be fully completed in four months time (September).
Happily at the time of writing Mt Vic Dojo were back in action from the club and our ﬁrst day back at the club is on the 2nd of May.
So as we approach our Centenary in 2015 we can be proud of the achievements in having our own home(s) and recognising the way the club has responded to change and evolved in a way that has enabled us to modernise our clubrooms so that they are the envy of many other clubs in our sport. In deciding to share the clubhouse with MVD, Scottish is yet again at the leading edge of broader changes in sport, as many sports and sports clubs are looking to co-locate to create sporting hubs (the Sportsville model) which make more eﬃcient use of facilities producing mutual beneﬁts for all the partners. And once again it is the people behind the bricks and mortar that have got us to where we are today.