A plan to revitalize the downtown park excludes the club from the space it has occupied in the heart of the park for decades. Mayor Walter Gray said in August that it attracts too few players to justify having such a high-value piece of real estate. He suggested the club use Astroturf on a downtown highrise building instead.
"We're not trying to get rid of lawn-bowling. They have to work at increasing membership," Gray said.
As if members took that as a challenge, 48 of them bowled at a season wind-up tournament on Sunday. Many are relatively new to the game and eager to see the club stay where it is.
"I think people have been horrified at the way the city has handled this," said club president Alan Stirling. "Our message to City Hall - do your homework and leave us alone."
Stirling became the club's 26th member when he joined in 2010. After an ambitious drive to attract new players, the club now boasts 87 members - the highest percentage increase of any bowling club in Canada, he said.
And they aren't just seniors. Two B.C. players earned gold medals in August at a national championship in New Brunswick. Pricilla Westlake, 18, won the under-19 singles event and Jaymee Sidel, 22, won gold in the under-25 pairs event with a player from Saskatchewan.
Last year, 17-year-old Connor McGowan was Canadian champion in under-19 singles. He's the current B.C. champion, said Stirling, who coaches and manages B.C.'s junior lawn-bowling team.
"It's still a young sport. When you think the national champions of each country are mostly under 40, it's thriving among young people."
The 120-by-120-foot bowling green was filled with players Sunday rolling balls from end to end. Meanwhile, the nearby tennis courts were unused. The park's soccer pitch, purported to be the best-used pitch in Kelowna, remains empty most of the time, Stirling said.
"When it is used, it can only take 22 players. This green can accommodate 64 players and has done numerous times this season."
To spur more memberships, the club is offering three free lessons on Wednesdays during its May-to-October season. You get coaching and a chance to try out the game - an experiment that has spawned more than 40 memberships, which cost $200 a year, Stirling said.
Pat Pardue and her husband Jack, who stopped to watch the tournament Sunday, are considering a free trial next spring.
"We don't want to lose this place. It's wonderful recreation for seniors," she said. "A tennis court shouldn't be replacing a lawn-bowling facility, which is one of a kind."
Stirling has invited the mayor and councillors to come down for free lessons. He promises to teach them how to play and to show "the pleasure and community spirit of those playing and those watching from the park."