Bowlers throughout Shetland are up in arms about proposals to take part of the bowls hall in the Clickimin Leisure Complex to be used for PE by the new Anderson High School.
The bowlers say that any change in the layout at Clickimin will limit access to the sport and could threaten its very future in the isles.
Lerwick Outdoor Bowling Club president Tam Terris said the present four rinks (playing surfaces) were necessary to ensure that as many people as possible who travelled in from the country would get a game, and at least four rinks were needed to host competitions.
The proposal by Shetland Recreational Trust is that four rinks should be reduced to two, although nothing has been decided yet.
The trust has claimed said it “made sense” to use Clickimin rather than “double up provision” in view the its “challenging financial position”.
However, the fact that rinks may be lost has dismayed bowlers, who number about 100 throughout the isles.
Mr Terris said the bowls hall was used seven days a week, whether for playing, coaching or competitions, and he credited the Clickimin facilities with producing bowlers who win hauls of medals at competitions.
There have been triumphs at island games tournaments, while bowlers recently retained their title at the St Fergus Open in Wick, one of the biggest tournaments in the north of Scotland.
Shetland hosted the bowls competion when the NatWest Island Games came to the isles in 2005, but that would no longer be possible with half the number of rinks.
Mr Terris said: “Proposals to close down parts of the Clickimin bowls hall to accommodate PE facilities for the new school will in effect decimate this sport in Shetland.
“Currently five separate clubs use this facility and closing down any part would mean the end of competition experience and practice opportunities.
“My own personal view on this is it is a public leisure centre that was purpose built for the use of the community, not as part of the education system.”
This view is shared by all five clubs who were signatories to a letter sent to recreational trust general manager James Johnston.
Written by bowls player and secretary John Jarmson, the letter stated: “With fewer than four rinks, the running of competitions becomes quite unmanageable.
“If the island games were held in Shetland again, a reduction in the number of rinks would preclued the bowling fraternity from holding bowls in the bowls hall.
“To be perfectly honest, we believe that if you are determined to remove even one bowls rink from the hall, you many as well shut the hall for bowls.”
Mr Johnston was unavailable for comment but later released a statement through the trust’s PR company.
He said: “As part of the new Anderson High School project, Shetland Islands Council agreed to fund restructuring work within Clickimin Leisure Complex, including expansion of our Apex gym facilities, in return for using defined areas of the building for PE teaching.
“The trust is now consulting a range of stakeholders on the impact any reconfiguration of facilities would have, including users of the bowls hall.
“The results of this consultation will be fed back to trustees prior to decisions being made on the way forward.”
● For full story see The Shetland Times tomorrow.