Worthing’s world champion joins bowl alley protest

Lisa John, world champion tenpin bowler
Lisa John, world champion tenpin bowler

WORTHING’s world champion tenpin bowler is backing a campaign to help save the town’s bowling alley, which is facing an uncertain future.

Lisa John who is ranked the number one woman for the sport in England, said it would be a “massive loss” if AMF Bowling and Worthing Borough Council failed to agree on current lease negotiations.

Lisa, 29, has been bowling at the Marine Parade facility for 22 years.

She said: “The thought of the centre closing is something I am trying my hardest not to think about.

“If the facility was lost, it would be devastating for our sport – so many people would give up bowling and never play again, which would be a massive loss for bowling.”

Lisa, who was the Herald/Gazette’s Community Star’s sportsperson of the year for 2010, bowls at the centre twice a week, but when she is competing in a major championship, she spends four to five days a week using the bowling alley for training.

Training

“With a full-time job, it is hard to train for major competitions because of my working hours, so having a local facility means that I can train after work,” added Lisa.

“Not only is it of a great benefit to me to have the facility in my home town, it is a very good centre as the staff look after me and my training needs. Other local centres are not geared up for that.”

The lease on the premises is due to expire this year and bowling fans fear the council plans to increase the rent by 300 per cent.

Two weeks ago, council leader Paul Yallop told the Herald the rent had not been increased for 20 years and the lease was being negotiated to ensure “taxpayers receive fair value for their assets”.

Charity

Lisa added: “Everybody I speak to is concerned about the possible closure.

“So many of them use the centre for social events and my company, Spofforths Chartered Accountants, and local solicitors Bennett Griffin have held fund-raising events in aid of St Barnabas House hospice and Children in Need, which goes to show that it is seen by the community as a great place to be.”

John Thorpe, Worthing Borough Council’s executive head of leisure and cultural services, said he wanted to see the facility retained.

“I would like to see the continued provision of bowling in the town, as there is clearly a proven market for this,” he said.

“However, as bowling is a leisure activity which is provided by the commercial sector, its future will ultimately be dictated primarily by market forces.”

Lease negotiations are ongoing with The Original Bowling Company, which is the parent company of AMF Bowling.