BOWLERS have made an emotional farewell to the place they have called home for the past 36 years.
Sunderland Indoor Bowling Club walked onto the greens of Crowtree Leisure Centre for the last time yesterday, with the matches being the final sporting event to be hosted by the complex, closing to make way for redevelopment plans.
The friendly fixture took place at the city centre facility and 90 club members took to the green.
The last day of competition marked the end of more than three decades of play at Crowtree, which the club has used as its base since 1977.
And it was club legend Jim Lambert who was chosen to bowl the very last ball.
The former England international and national title winner has been recovering from stomach cancer, and he and other members were visibly moved when the moment came to say goodbye to Crowtree.
Facebook campaigns launched to save Crowtree ultimately proved unsuccessful when it was decided by councillors in February that it would be axed.
But one sign put up by the club read ‘Have faith. This isn’t the end, it’s a new start’.
“It’s been difficult to comprehend,” said chairman Mike Davis.
“The centre has become the hub of bowls in the area for so long now and it’s hard to say goodbye.” Mr Davis added that he and secretary Richard McKie will be working hard to try to find an alternative venue where the club, which has almost 400 members, can play.
“We are in negotiations with the council at the minute but there’s nothing sorted yet,” said Mr Davis.
“They did come up with one or two ideas but they really haven’t been suitable.
“More than 70 per cent of the club membership have paid their fees for the next year already - and they haven’t got a club to play at.”
Work has already begun to demolish the site, which is being carried out by contractor Wilmott Dixon.
It is now hoped that a retail business will be interested in redeveloping Crowtree, which is yards from The Bridges shopping centre.