• Quote: ‘We are not hopeful of a solution. We are going to stop all expenditure on The Waterloo with immediate effect’ – five times Waterloo Champion Gary Ellis

By Andrew Atkinson EXCLUSIVE

The future of the famous Waterloo bowling championship in Blackpool is in jeopardy – in the wake of a fundraising campaign that raised over £75,000 to secure its future.

“We are going to see how things pan out over the summer,” Waterloo five-times Champion Gary Ellis told The Leader.

A public appeal to raise financial funding to maintain the Waterloo stadium has raised £75,000 in a bid to return to the green, as reported in The Leader.

The appeal is to replace the south stand and undertake major construction work of the 114-year-old South Shore venue.

Work includes replacing all steel barriers in and around the south stand and the rear cladding; replacing steel barriers on each side of the west stand; dismantling the whole north stand and replacing it with a covered standing area; rebuilding the damaged east stand wall and replacing the steel barriers and gantry around the Waterloo Shop.

Long term, the west stand would need a new roof, costing in the region of £50,000.

Since1907 The Waterloo has been crowned the top event in the Crown Green bowling calendar – known as the ‘FA Cup Final’ of bowling, played at the Wembley of crown green.

The stumbling block surrounds the lease of the green and stadium, that was initially a decade.

Gary Ellis five times Waterloo Champion: Not hopeful of a solution.
Gary Ellis five times Waterloo Champion: Not hopeful of a solution.

The Waterloo bowling committee have encountered problems in negotiating a new lease with the owners of the site.

“We are sat on a lot of money in the bank. If there is no change we will be returning all donations,” said Ellis.

The Waterloo Bowling Committee feel more security of tenure is necessary to justify the expense of the redevelopment.

“It’s a big project – we have the money – but we need to have the right lease,” reasoned Gary. “The best position we want to get to is not the best position for the owner.

“I understand his viewpoint – because he does not get a lot of benefit from the stadium.

“Based on the level of investment and expenditure we are required to make on the stadium in order to continue, we decided that we require a long-term lease to secure the Waterloo’s future as a bowls venue.

“The owner has said he is only comfortable in agreeing a 10-year lease, with us having no security of tenure beyond that.

“This length of lease – or a shorter lease – wouldn’t be a problem, if the day one expenditure was nothing or minimal, but it’s not acceptable based on expenditure of £75,000, plus.”

The Watlerloo Autumn Handicap was last played in 2019, with cancelled 2020 and 2021 championships, due to the coronovirus pandemic.

Ellis, the only player to win The Waterloo an unprecedented five times, in 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2014, said: “At this stage we are not hopeful of there being a solution.

“We are going to stop all expenditure on The Waterloo – with immediate effect.”

Ellis added: “We can’t get lease terms we are happy with – bearing in mind the day one expenditure amount – so we are at a deadlock currently.

“I’m not hopeful of it being sorted out.”

Captions: The Waterloo inaugurated in 1907, last played in 2019, due to coronovirus pandemic.