Merimbula clubs look to merge

Community support continues to build for a merger of Merimbula RSL Club and Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club as their boards move closer to reaching agreement on an amalgamation model.

Architect impressions of development opportunities of a merger of Merimbula RSL Club and Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club.

Architect impressions of development opportunities of a merger of Merimbula RSL Club and Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club.

Business, sporting and community groups have thrown their support behind the proposed merger which is in the discussion phase between the two clubs. Clubs NSW has also endorsed the initiative.

“This is truly a marriage of equals,” Merimbula RSL secretary-manager Michael Mutsch said. “After 18 months of strategic planning the RSL went looking for a strong future for our club and the important role it serves and this is something a merger of the two clubs will achieve. 

“Most club amalgamations are a rescue mission when one club is on the edge of bankruptcy and closing down, and they get swallowed up and lose their culture. But this proposal is very different.

“Both clubs are doing well at the moment but in five years’ time financial projections are presenting a really worrying picture. If we sit on our hands, we have serious concerns about the future of our club.”

Merger development ideas include a large conference and live entertainment venue, a cafe and restaurant precinct, more parking spaces, improved disabled access, larger area for Anzac memorabilia, improved bowling facilities and interactive tourism information displays. 

The amalgamation model is based on feedback from members of both clubs, business planning recommendations and legislation. The preferred combined site is Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club because of vacant club-owned land that surrounds the current building.

Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club chief executive officer Damien Foley said the merger would also allow investment in a much-needed large conference facility for the Sapphire Coast, plus bigger bands.

“We are turning down big conferences because the Sapphire Coast doesn't have the venue and in the past 18 months alone we have turned down three major conferences," he said. "These events inject huge funds into the community, accommodation, businesses and both clubs but because we don’t have the facility we are all missing out.” 

The two clubs said a critical part of the planning was to also provide job security for staff. “By creating a stronger business model with a range of revenue streams, we'll be building something that benefits not only our two clubs, staff and members, but the community in general."

The RSL and Bowling Club boards have reached an in-principle agreement on an amalgamated model, subject to legal review. The next step is presenting the agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding, to the members. 

“Members make the final decision at special general meetings of the two clubs. We have a combined membership of around 14,000 and encourage all members to get involved in the decision-making of this important development which will not only benefit the two clubs but the entire Sapphire Coast - locals and visitors alike,"  Messrs Foley and Mutsch said.