With the days getting shorter and wetter, it is indoor sports time to shine. Starting last week, Sookites now have one more option to turn to: short mat bowls.
The grand ribbon cutting ceremony was held upstairs at the Legion on Friday afternoon where the short mat facility has been installed. About 12 people including Mayor Janet Evans showed up for the inaugural bowl. “It’s fabulous,” said Evans. “It gets everybody inside in the winter and it’s good for hand-eye coordination. It’s money well spent.”
Sharon Ward, entertainment chairwoman at the Legion, organized the event. “We had to go and build these special racks to put these mats in. They’re $2,000 each and they’re 45-feet long so we had to build the equipment to hold these,” she said.
Very similar to lawn bowling, short mat uses the same bowls — or balls — that players throw to get as close as possible to a centre “button” on the 30-foot by 6-foot mat. The team of one to four people that has the most bowls closest to the button win.
Ward and about nine others in town are avid lawn bowlers, and have belonged to the Juan de Fuca Lawn Bowling Club for around five years.
“It would be nice for us to be able to do a sport that we enjoy and have it in our own home town instead of having to travel. This would be a nice bonus for us.”
Paul Mantell from View Royal showed up for the kickoff, and said his wife is part of the JDF club. Friends of Wards, they plan on being regulars at the Legion.
“It’s quicker than natural grass, a little more challenging,” said Mantell.
Ward said she got the funding for the project by sheer coincidence. A friend had accompanied her to a game at a club in Sidney, and the next day she found something while flipping through the newspaper.
“I was reading the Mirror and there was an ad in there for the Sooke Community Grant.”
Going up against groups like the film society and the philharmonic orchestra, Ward didn’t have high hopes to qualify for some of the $80,000 available. Putting in a request for $10,000, she received half that, suspecting that the recreational nature and the accessibility of the sport by the community is what gave her the edge.
After purchasing the mats, each weighing about 100 lbs. the rest of the money was used to for construction of things like the seven-foot racks that the mats are stored in, and end pieces so the bowls don’t run off the end.
“(The grant was) enough to get us started, we’re over budget. Somehow we’ll have to get the rest,” said Ward. Usage fees will help — an open league is starting up three days a week (Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays) that will cost $3 per play, with one day of drop in on Thursdays. Prospective league members do not have to belong to the Legion.
“It’s a good starting point to get the game going, and we’ll go from there,” she said.