When an electrical fire tore through Bundeena RSL Memorial Club in the early hours of February 12, 2015, it rocked its members and the local community to the core. The top floor, Sub-Branch office, and property including a priceless set of World War I medals were destroyed. All that remained was an uninhabitable, burnt-out shell.
“The heart of the community had been removed and it has continued to be missed by all in Bundeena and Maianbar,” Chief Executive Officer Sara Watkins said.
Bundeena, a small coastal village of about 1,800 people in the centre of the Royal National Park, is serviced by a single access road and a local ferry service connects the village to Cronulla during daylight hours.
The club, apart from being the largest employer in town, played a significant role in the day to day lives of everyone who lives there.
And this wasn’t the first time the club and community had to work together to secure its future. After falling on hard times in 2008, members raised $40,000 to prevent it from closing. Less than 10 years later, the club had to once again fight for its existence.
The road to rebuilding the burnt out club has been anything but smooth with issues of the site’s ownership delaying efforts. Facing the prospect of losing their occupation of the site, the club bought the property from the RSL Custodian for $250,000 after extended negotiations in August 2016.
Once the site was secured, the club began investigating options for the rebuild and after extensive behind the scenes work, the club finally received DA approval to reinstate their building in October 2016.
However, with the building component of the insurance payout returned to the previous land owners, the club’s finances were limited. With no interest from private investors and suffering from the extended period without trade, the club acknowledged it did not have the capital to fund the redevelopment independently, so sought amalgamation.
Recognising the value of the investment and its potential as a tourist destination, Cabramatta Bowling Club responded to the call. The merger was approved by members of both clubs in April and approved by Liquor and Gaming in July.
“This amalgamation was a fundamental component of being able to have the club reinstated. If it weren’t for Cabramatta Bowling Club, the community of Bundeena & Maianbar would not be getting their club back,” said President Graeme Kelly.
Now, two and a half years after fire, signs of life are beginning to emerge on the site. The $4.2 million rebuild, design and interior fit out will retain part of the original building with many more new and exciting additions. There will be new memorabilia display cabinets and landscaped gardens, while parking has been reconfigured. The lower ground level has been expanded to include offices, a new store and a function room, while the upper level will accommodate a modern bar with a café, bistro and general seating area along with indoor and outdoor gaming areas. Wooden flooring and coastal tones will reflect the club’s natural environment and fantastic outlook over Port Hacking.
The newly-named Bundeena Community and Services Club aims to open its doors to the public in the first quarter of 2018.
“It’s going to be a great day when we reopen our doors again and return the heart back to our beautiful community,” said Mr. Kelly.
Mood board showing the look and feel of the new club interiors.