A new ‘season ticket’ for bowling enthusiasts could see players forking out more than three times what they currently do to enjoy their sport.
The £25 charge – which will rise to £31.50 over the next two years – is part of a raft of new measures designed to slash the £245,000 annual cost to the taxpayer of running and maintaining 71 council-supported greens across the city.
The proposals – to be rubber-stamped by the council’s executive board on Wednesday – would also see six underused greens closed. Earmarked for closure are sites at Potternewton Park, Harehills, Cranmore and Western Flatts Park which will each lose one green, with Woodhouse Moor Park losing two.
The council currently subsidises the sport to about 96 per cent of its costs. The remaining costs come out of membership fees paid to individual clubs. The city currently has around 2,500 players affiliated to 50 clubs.
Under the new system, players would pay their season ticket fee into one central pot, which will contribute to the overall maintenance costs of all public bowling greens. However they will still have to pay the individual club fees, some of which are currently around £10. Gas and electricity costs, which are also currently subsidised to about £30,000, would also transfer to the clubs.
There has been a mixed response from the bowling community to the new charges.
Barry Tebbs, from Bramley Bowling Club, said there was definitely a feeling among many players that bowlers – many of whom are older – are being “targeted”. “It’s got to be ironed out a bit,” he said of the new proposals.
Barrie Stevenson, 71, who usually plays at Garforth, said: “Nobody wants to see any bowling greens closing.”
Andrew Dewhirst, chairman of Leeds and District Crown Green Bowling Association, said the city had actually been “getting bowling on the cheap” for a long time, and the review was proof that the city council has “had to get their act together”. He said the new system could work “like a bowling union” and it was ultimately about “futureproofing” the game.
Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said: “We simply could not continue as before and these proposals, I believe, set out a measured way in how we should proceed. One of our key aims has been to keep any price increases to bowlers as low as possible. I therefore welcome the proposal, which will see incremental rises as part of a new yearly season ticket which will keep the costs to bowlers to an absolute minimum.”