£40k bowls club carpet to be sold after axe plan

Edinburgh Leisure plans to turn Portobello Indoor Bowling Club into a gymnastics and soft play area. Picture: Greg Macvean

Edinburgh Leisure plans to turn Portobello Indoor Bowling Club into a gymnastics and soft play area. Picture: Greg Macvean

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A BOWLING carpet worth £40,000 was laid at an indoor bowling centre just 18 months before the decision to close it.

Edinburgh Leisure, which is left with the redundant piece of equipment – paid for by ­taxpayers – is now considering whether to rip it up and sell it.

Plans have been announced to transform Portobello Indoor Bowls and Leisure Centre on Westbank Street into a ­gymnastics hub and soft play centre.

Portobello Indoor Bowling Club (PIBC), which has vowed to fight the decision, discussed the closure at its annual ­general meeting attended by Edinburgh Leisure’s director of operations Graeme Gardiner.

Former secretary Stuart Shaw said he learned the closure plan had first been mooted in a report last July.

He said: “Why did it take nine months to reach this ­decision when you spent £40,000 of taxpayers money putting a new carpet down?”

Widespread condemnation of the way the move was ­handled has prompted Edinburgh East MSP Kenny MacAskill to demand ­showdown talks with the bosses of Edinburgh Leisure.

The Westbank Street club is the only facility in Edinburgh where non-members are able to book rink time from as little as £2.30 for pay and play.

Volunteer junior section coach Nicola Barclay said: “There are already seven or eight facilities in our city where you have gymnastics, and ­soft-play areas are not lacking in the city.

“Bowling is one of the sports that Scotland will be looking to push at the Commonwealth Games and there’s only one facility where you can pay and play.

“People who want to try bowls don’t want to spend £50 for a membership – the game will die if we don’t have a ­facility for juniors and people of all ages to play.”

The only other indoor ­bowling facility in the Capital is Bainfield in Gorgie, where an indoor membership is £60 plus a £10 joining fee.

PIBC team manager Robert Wood said: “This decision is discriminatory against those of us who want to take part in Edinburgh indoor bowls”.

“To have a consultation with us now when the ­decision has already been made is ­disgraceful – it’s shameful.”

Mr Gardiner, who admitted the idea of closing the club had been on the “backburner” for the past year, said: “As far as the carpet is concerned, it’s a good point.

“We recognised the previous carpet was in a terrible condition and we wanted to do something about it.”

Admitting the carpet may be sold, he said: “This last year has been tough for us. We’re sorry we’ve had to take this difficult decision – we will consult with users of the club over options for using other centres.”

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