At the Club Manager’s Assoc luncheon last week, I caught up with Gordon Laffan from Stockton Bowling, who was awarded a bursary on the day. We chatted about entertainment. (What else do agents and venue bosses chat about?!) Gordon gave me some insight into how he turned Stockton Bowling Club into a successful club using live entertainment and it was fascinating.
So I emailed Gordon and asked him to give tell me the whole story in his own words. How they used and continue to use live entertainment as an attraction to their venue and vital service to their members.
Here is his story.
The Stockton Bowlo Story
“In a town of 4000+ with the median age of 49 years and 5 licenced venues on a peninsula with one road in – we had to do something to get our share of the local dollar. The club at the time was your typical bowling club and was dying more quickly every year. We had to change our focus and there was no ‘sacred cows’ – everything was up for discussion. “
“Revamped food offer and entertainment was going to be our point of difference. We did not want to be the ‘cheapest beer’ or ‘best value schnitty’. We wanted to be a venue of choice when you consider how you want to spend that $50 in your pocket. So we changed caterers, we ripped out our beer system and updated it for craft beers and we slowly started to build our stable of artists and entertainers. We quickly discovered the difference in this. “
We needed live entertainment
“But we realised that we needed entertainers, we needed artists that would come on the journey with us and be partnered in our success. What we didn’t need want was just a guy playing a guitar for 3 hours and not saying a word or engaging with the audience. We wanted to reach a point where every Fri, Sat & Sun you would not need to look at who is playing, but just turn up knowing you will have a great night out and be entertained. It was a big investment by the Club but we had to something to differentiate ourselves and stand out from the crowd.”
“Without an auditorium we knew we would struggle but “lemons and lemonade” fast became our mantra. We just turned the whole Club into an auditorium! 3 to 4 times a year we would put a big act on, shut the Club and only allow ticket holders back in. We started doing it on a Thursday night, so as to not to compete with Newcastle and we had Cadd & Morris, ‘Diamond Forever’, ‘3Bs’, ‘Creedence’, ‘Abbalanche’ in the early shows and was a roaring success. So much so we went on to win the “ACE” Award for venue and commitment to entertainment. We soon started moving to Saturday nights as people loved the live entertainment and wanted it. We had planted the seed and it grew.”
The investment paid off!
“From there our confidence also grew. We decided to do an outdoor slant and the ‘Summer Sessions’ was born. Every Sunday in summer there would be a live band downstairs in the open. People loved it and bar sales were grew. We invested heavily in outdoor furniture, a marquee for the bands and live entertainment and the popularity and attendance kept growing. 3 years ago we went one step further and on the October long weekend we drove a B-Double onto the green and used it as a stage. We had 7 bands over 8 hours and ‘WoodStockton’ was born! Every year since it has grown and hundreds turn up for a day of music & fun on the greens.”
“We now have quality live entertainment and Stockton Bowling Club partnered in everyone’s mind. In January we have an annual Jimmy Buffet day with people from Sydney coming up for it. We regularly have Newcastle people coming over on Sunday afternoon for the Summer Sessions. Australia Day is huge with Bush poets and ballads and artists from Tamworth stopping off . And we have Paddy’s Day with fiddles and bodhrans. We have Beach Boys, U2, Simply Red, The Doors tribute shows amongst others. We have been finalists in 3 ACE Awards and struck gold once.”
“Most importantly – we have a Club that is now more viable and vibrant – great live entertainment may not be the answer for every Club but it should be part of any solution and has certainly worked for us!”
Visit the Stockton Bowlo
If you’d like to pop in and visit the Stockton Bowling Club and see their success story for yourself, visit them here: https://www.facebook.com/StocktonBowlo
By Nancy Hillary/All Things Entertainment