Club up creek ‘without cash’

Andrew Mathieson
BUILDING regulations that forced an urgent scramble for public funding are consigning Geelong’s oldest rowing club to a slow death, according to members.
And Barwon Rowing Club believes the sport’s blue-blood image could be behind the lack of government financial help.
The club fears members could walk away from the club’s proud 140-year history if its iconic timber clubhouse closes for good.
Secretary Lyn George said the club was hundreds of thousands of dollars short on funding for its rebuilding project.
“We can still continue because when we get to lock-up stage we still have storage downstairs, so we can still put boats on the water but it’s going to be extremely difficult to run any sort of program,” she said.
“Basically, all we’ll have upstairs is just toilets – we won’t have any meeting rooms, showers, gym facilities or anything.
“I don’t know if that means there will be an exodus of our members and ultimately we will have to close down – that’s pretty dire stuff.”
State Government gave the club $50,000 three years ago, while Geelong’s council has contributed $20,000.
The clubhouse sits on Commonwealth land but the club has yet to receive help from the Federal Government despite funding pleas.
Mrs George said the club was concerned that perceptions of rowing as an elitist sport were hurting its bid for more public funding.
“One of our members seems to suggest that it might be a factor in terms of how other people perceive us,” she said.
“In fact, Barwon Rowing Club has very working-class grassroots. We argue that you don’t have to go to a prestigious school because we provide an avenue for kids to learn to row.”
Mrs George said a balcony collapse at nearby Corio Bay Rowing Club in 2006 forced City Hall to conduct safety checks.
Safety officers found that the Barwon club was also “rundown” and issued building notices to repair and renovate the clubhouse.
Club members decided to re-build rather than renovate because it would be cheaper long-term.
The club aimed to raise more than $400,000 to make up the financial shortfall.
“For a community based club, that’s an incredible effort and it is also based on a local members and friends volunteering their own time and materials,” Mrs George said.

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