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‘It’s been the heartbeat since 1978’ - sadness as leisure centre closes indoor bowls club

Bruce Rossi, outside the leisure centre in North Walsham. Picture: David Bale

Bruce Rossi, outside the leisure centre in North Walsham. Picture: David Bale

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The owner of a north Norfolk leisure centre said he was heartbroken he had to close its indoor bowls club permanently.

File photo of indoor bowls action at North Walsham Indoor Bowls Club at Rossis. The club has welcomed thousands of players over the past 42 years. Picture: Colin FinchFile photo of indoor bowls action at North Walsham Indoor Bowls Club at Rossis. The club has welcomed thousands of players over the past 42 years. Picture: Colin Finch

Bruce Rossi, owner of Rossis Leisure in North Walsham, said the North Walsham Bowls Club would not be reopened as the lockdown eases.

The indoor bowls club was the original part of the leisure centre, having been opened by Mr Rossi’s parents, John and Betty, 42 years ago on land next to their farm.

Mr Rossi said: “It’s with a heavy heart I’ve had to make this decision, it’s been the heartbeat of the whole business since 1978.

“It was facing increased costs and declining income. Then Covid struck, and in the absence of any grant funding from anybody the future was looking quite bleak. We are doing our upmost to save jobs.”

John Rossi, who started the indoor bowls club in 1978. Picture: RossisJohn Rossi, who started the indoor bowls club in 1978. Picture: Rossis

Mr Rossi said the bowling hall originally had four rinks, and had expanded to 12 by 1986.

It was biggest indoor bowls club in the country during its heyday, with around 1,200 members.

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Mr Rossi said: “It produced many county players and England internationals. It was one of the most successful clubs in the country at the time.”

Rossis Leisure centre at North Walsham.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY
Rossis Leisure centre at North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

But interest in indoor bowls waned as other sports grew, and Mr Rossi said it had become more difficult to sustain membership numbers the years went on.

Mr Rossi said: “Unfortunately the only conclusion was to close.”

MORE: Uncertainty around most north Norfolk leisure centres’ reopening

He said the club had around 200 members at its closure, many of whom had been playing bowls there for decades. He said there were other indoor bowls clubs in centres such as Bodham and Acle, which he hoped members could turn to.

Mr Rossi said he wanted to thank Tina and Trevor Goddard, who have given their time voluntarily and supported the club over many years.

He said the leisure centre had thankfully not had to lay anyone off, and staff were looking forward to its reopening, which would start with the gym, squash courts and pool, initially for members only, from July 25.

Mr Rossi said: “The rest of the Rossis business remains unaffected and investment will be ongoing in all areas, but currently there is nothing in line to replace the bowls areas and this will evolve as time goes by.”


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