Bowlers consider future as centre to shut

Treasurer Helen Gray and secretary Isabel Anderson outside the Portobello club. Picture: Greg Macvean
Treasurer Helen Gray and secretary Isabel Anderson outside the Portobello club. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Campaigners fighting to save Edinburgh’s only public indoor bowling facility have slammed leisure bosses as it is confirmed the axe will fall on the centre.

Edinburgh Leisure is going ahead with a decision to close Portobello Indoor Bowls and Leisure Centre on Westbank Street – the only place where members of the public can come and pay for games – on June 30.

It comes amid fears the majority of bowlers using the centre will now give up the sport. The facility will be transformed into a gymnastics hub and soft play centre set to open this autumn.

The council’s culture and sports convenor Richard Lewis said the decision had been taken because the facility had a “very low rate of use”.

But members of Portobello Indoor Bowling Club insist the centre is the lowest loss maker of the leisure chain at an annual cost of £118,000 on average over the past three years, compared to £422,000 for Meadowbank and £507,000 for the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.

Portobello Indoor Bowling Club (PIBC) team manager Robert Wood said: “We’ve had our worst fears confirmed.

“There never was a consultation – the decision had already been made without any regard to the people that use the 
centre.”

Mr Wood, who said the PIBC would be seeking compensation for fees of around £1500, believes up to 70 per cent of the club’s bowlers may now give up the sport. He said: “I won’t be going back to it – I’m utterly sickened by what‘s happened, we’ve been failed.” 
Mr Wood said suggestions made by the club, such as installing a mezzanine level or offering other uses through the summer months, had been ignored. Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore said: “If there had been a proper consultation the users might have had the opportunity to put in ideas of their own, but this decision seemed to have been taken without consultation.”

Edinburgh Leisure director of operations, Graeme Gardiner, said: “We aim to double usage at the current Portobello Bowls location by creating a new family hub for gymnastics and soft play. Our plan is to increase participation and income through a much higher number of visits.

“In addition to our income objectives, we aim to eliminate any subsidy for users, which is currently unsustainable due to the decline in bowling usage.”