Waterloo bowling championships on the move from Blackpool to Fleetwood

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Blackpool’s historic Waterloo bowling championships will live on … in Fleetwood.

 

All the tournaments traditionally held at crown green bowling’s most iconic venue, the Waterloo Hotel on South Shore, are to be staged at Fleetwood Bowling Club from next year, including the jewel in the crown that is the Autumn Handicap.

It follows a long but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to safeguard the future of the Waterloo arena itself, where massive investment was needed for redevelopment of the stadium.

The 2019 Waterloo championships were the last at a South Shore venue which has staged them for well over a century

The 2019 Waterloo championships were the last at a South Shore venue which has staged them for well over a century

The campaign group, spearheaded by five-time Waterloo champion Gary Ellis, succeeded in raising the £75,000 required through an online funding appeal, but they could not agree a new lease for the site to make the expenditure worthwhile.

Ellis and his colleagues felt the 10-year lease offered by the owners did not provide enough security to justify such an outlay for rebuilding.

But after 114 years of Waterloo bowls, a new bowling committee has been formed to maintain the traditions of the Waterloo at a new home a few miles up the coast.

It is spearheaded by Staffordshire-based Waterloo stalwart Jeff Brown, while the role of bowling manager has been assumed by Mark Mills, a dedicated Waterloo organiser of recent years.

The Fylde green bowling scene has enjoyed a successful revival after its greens stood empty through 2020, and one of this year’s most successful events was the Fleetwood Bowling Festival at Fleetwood BC on Upper Lune Street.

Mills takes up the story: “We saw what a good venue it was and it made sense to play the Waterloo competitions there.

“Even if the situation at the Waterloo suddenly changed, I don’t think we could get the green ready in time to hold events next year. It’s amazing how quickly nature takes over.

“We’ll still call it the Waterloo and play for the same trophies. Everything will be the same, it’s just the venue that has changed. I know that’s a big deal because so many people’s hearts were in the Waterloo, but we hope that in the next few years everyone will come to terms with these events having a new home and will enjoy them as they always have.

“Of course we’d love to carry on playing at the Waterloo and we will all miss it, but this is the right thing to do. It means the tournaments can continue and we don’t lose all that history.”

Mark hails from Stockport but is based in Staining for most of the year. His son Ben won the North Lancashire and Fylde Junior merit title.

Those who donated to the Waterloo appeal have the option of a refund or of seeing their money used to develop the Fleetwood site as a major tournament venue. And a GoFundMe page specifically for this purpose has been launched online: https://gofund.me/93dff54e

Dates for the 2022 spring (April 13-May 2) and autumn (July 2-September 21) Waterloo championships have been confirmed, though entries are not yet being taken.

Sponsors for all next year’s Waterloo competitions are also being sought. Any interested parties are asked to contact Mark at markmills0998@yahoo.co.uk