Since it was established in 1958, Toongabbie Sports and Bowling Club has undergone several renovations – it’s no longer the white fibro building it once was. These days the clubhouse features a brick exterior, a large bistro area, and well-kept bowling greens.

Following its latest round of renovation that was completed last November, the club is now also home to an expanded alfresco dining area, a refurbished TAB lounge, a sports terrace, versatile function spaces, a new outdoor children’s play area, and an expanded gaming room.

Making room

With the help of Fugen Constructions, the club expanded its footprint by 30 per cent from 1,500sqm to 2,000sqm to make way for the additional facilities. According to Andrew Lauridsen, CEO of Toongabbie Sports Club, the decision to expand was due to the growing number of patrons.

“Coming out of Covid we were seeing increases of 50 per cent to 100 per cent [in capacity] with catering, gaming and some social spaces being full at peak times, hence the need for more floor space,” he said.

Lauridsen added the other factor that drove the club’s decision to renovate was the local community. He pointed out how it became more obvious that during and after the pandemic the club’s members and guests were after more space to socialise.

“The club has been designed to enable us to better address the needs of our community, which is increasingly a mix of higher density living that need spaces for social gatherings not suited to apartment living,” he said.

He further explained the club was becoming a popular option for local families to host special events, except the club’s existing function rooms were not suitable to cater for those events.

“Christenings, baptisms, birthdays, all those things, they needed a space to go. We do have a large function space but it’s for about 180 people, but all of our enquiries were coming in at 40, 50, 60, 70. So, putting an event into a room that size isn’t efficient for us, but it’s also not great for the customer because you just don’t have enough people to fill the space and they just lose the atmosphere,” explained Lauridsen.

“The extra spaces that we’ve built are multipurpose rooms, so they can be partitioned off. Patrons can book it as one room that can hold up to 80 people, otherwise, it can be split off into three lots of twenties, or three lots of thirties, plus the alfresco area.”

To reflect the new function spaces, the club has updated its catering menus, which are now more vegetarian- and halal-friendly.

“With those smaller numbers, it’s not as appropriate to offer a buffet-type setting. It’s just too much,” Lauridsen said.

“We’re now offering finger food and hors d’oeuvres as part of the selection. The food is also a bit more in line with the diet of patrons who are hoping to use those spaces.”

Hard work pays off

But the club was not always this successful.

Lauridsen admitted that before 2019, the club was “flagging”. He explained it was the initial reason the club engaged Fugen Constructions for a refresh in 2019. During that engagement, Fugen helped the club install new carpet and tiled flooring, bespoke joinery, external heaters and a cool misting system, and upgraded its gaming area and servery.

“Our initial refurbishment in 2019 saw us introduce some outdoor spaces and then Covid happened, and we took up those temporary options that were available,” he said.

“We also spaced out our gaming room in mid-2020 when we reopened to suit Covid. Our customers seem to have liked it, so we’ve gravitated towards that same sort of feeling for the rest of the business as well.”

All of the club’s refurbishment and expansion work, however, is paying dividends. Lauridsen highlighted that since the initial refresh in 2019, club membership numbers have increased by 73 per cent in four years from 7,230 to 12,500.

“December provided the club its best food, beverage and functions trading on record,” he said. “January also performed stronger than previous years. We have a strong belief the club will continue to appeal to our local community.”

There’s no doubt that this latest update will be the club’s last. “Our membership has grown by 5,000 over the last few years. If that continues and if we’re hitting full occupancy again, we’d need to look at expanding again,” Lauridsen said

“We do have bigger plans, but that’s for five to 10 years down the track.”

This article first appeared in Club Management Autumn 2024 . Read the magazine in full here.

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