1 July 2022

Champagne to flow as Southern Cross Club celebrates 50 years serving the Canberra community

| Katrina Condie
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Turning of the sod on the Southern Cross Club

The turning of the first sod of the Southern Cross Club at Woden in August 1972. Photo: Southern Cross Club.

Canberra’s Southern Cross Club is turning 50 in August and the three men who made the club what it is today will be first to pop the champagne.

The club’s three chief executive officers for the vast majority of its existence have each taken the facility to new heights.

Current CEO Ian Mackay, along with his predecessors Greg Mitchell and Peter Head, will join in two months of celebrations during August and September when the club’s 600 staff members and 80,000-plus members commemorate the enormous milestone.

Mr Mackay, who moved from Sydney to take over the reins in July 2014, says each CEO has played a big part in creating the “magnificent” club enjoyed by a wide cross-section of the Canberra community.

“I’m just holding the baton for a while and, when I move on, I hope to leave the club in a better place,” he says.

“Every CEO has added critical elements that have made the club bigger and better. I certainly couldn’t have achieved what I have without what Greg and Peter have done before me.”

Southern Cross Club CEOs

Southern Cross Club former CEOs Greg Mitchell (left) and Peter Head will join current CEO Ian Mackay (right) for the club’s 50th birthday celebrations in August. Photo: Southern Cross Club.

A not-for-profit organisation, the Southern Cross Club opened its doors in Woden in August 1972 and has expanded significantly to include licensed premises at Tuggeranong and Jamison, plus the yacht club at Yarralumla and MV Southern Cross Cruises.

The club also operates the Southern Cross Health Club, a network of Anytime Fitness franchises across the city and the Stellar Canberra health and wellness centre in Woden.

Mr Mackay says the club is constantly rejuvenating its facilities and updating its technology to remain “relevant” to the community.

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The Woden venue has been modernised over the past five years, while work is underway on the Snapper on the Lake eatery which is set to “unlock the true potential” of the yacht club’s prime location.

Mr Mackay says serving the community remains at the core of the club’s operations. Since 2014, it has contributed about $14 million to a multitude of organisations across Canberra.

The club’s first CEO, Mr Head started as assistant manager in 1978. Within one year he took on the top job, using his leadership, management and goal-setting skills to set a cracking pace within Canberra’s club industry.

Stellar opening ribbon is cut

Stellar Canberra was opened in March 2018 by past president Chris Behrens, then Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur and Rob de Castella who were joined by members of the West Canberra Wanderers and Tuggeranong Valley AFL Football Club. Photo: Southern Cross Club.

“The club’s growth at that time was rapid and from the 1980s to 1990s there were about 1000 new members joining every month,’’ Mr Head says.

He handed the baton to Mr Mitchell in 2004 at a time when clubs were introducing smoking bans.

“That was probably the biggest change during my 10 years as CEO,” Mr Mitchell says.

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The club previously had only one non-smoking area, so major renovations were carried out.

Acquiring the Jamison club further cemented the Southern Cross footprint in Canberra’s north, while the purchase of Anytime Fitness gyms set the wheels in motion for diversification with 4000 members across the first four facilities.

“Peter set a very good base during his 30 years at the helm and it was easy to take over and build on that,” Mr Mitchell says.

“We saw tremendous membership growth and I think we achieved the ACT Club of the Year a number of times during my time.”

Five kitchen staff arm in arm

The Southern Cross Club staff, numbering about 600, will join in the 50th birthday celebrations. Photo: Southern Cross Club.

During the 50th birthday celebrations, Southern Cross Club members will be invited to dinners and promotions across the network, which includes a gala event at Woden on 26 August and a chance to win $50,000 cash.

The club’s partners are joining the festivities, with Capital Brewing launching a commemorative beer, Lonsdale Street Roasters producing a 50th birthday coffee, Underground Spirits creating a 50th anniversary gin, and Lake George Winery releasing celebratory batches of red and white wines.

“Our local producers are all part of the great Canberra success story and we’re thrilled they can be part of our celebration,” Mr Mackay says.

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