Members at one of Canberra’s oldest clubhouses met for cucumber sandwiches and tea this week to celebrate a dream come true.
The Canberra Croquet Club, next to the Hyatt Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, has reopened after six months of renovations doubled its footprint and added storage, toilets and disability access.
The 134-member club made news earlier this year as the recipient of the biggest grant in the 2022 ACT Government’s Capital Assistance Program (CAP), which falls under Sport and Recreation grants.
The ACT Government contributed $410,000 towards the project. This included overhauling the kitchen, replacing the external decking and removing asbestos in the existing 1933 building, while also providing disabled access, a disabled toilet and shower cubicle, and extra storage space in a new building.
For context, a $250,000 grant was awarded to Tuggeranong Valley Rugby Union and Sports Club to convert its bowling greens to synthetic. All other grants in the 2022 round were less than $60,000.
At the time, ACT Minister for Sport and Recreation Yvette Berry said the 91-year-old club’s heritage-listing had contributed to the expense.
“The challenges here are around meeting the National Capital Authority (NCA) requirements and the Heritage ACT requirements are significant,” she said.
“This is one of the oldest sports clubs in Canberra, if not the oldest. So it does require significantly more funding to address the [above] requirements. It is more expensive because [of this].”
The club also contributed $100,000 of its savings to the work, while one member, Yvonne Grattan, donated $20,000 for the kitchen upgrade in memory of her late husband John.
Minister Berry was invited to the opening ceremony on Tuesday (15 November) to cut the ribbon.
“The restoration of the clubhouse was a significant undertaking and will provide a wonderful new space for the club to enjoy for many years to come,” Minister Berry said.
“These croquet lawns are a piece of Canberra’s history and it’s great that the clubhouse now offers a more enjoyable space for members and the community to stay active.”
The Canberra Croquet Club was established in 1928, originally women’s only, when members would set up their gates (or hoops) on a lawn in front of the Hyatt Hotel, using one of the hotel rooms as a locker. The clubhouse opened in 1933, and the grounds were added to the Heritage Places Register in 1994.
The plan to expand the original building has been several years in the making, but the heritage listing added complexity. Any new building would have to faithfully replicate the style of the old.
Retired architect and club member Peter Dale was appointed to oversee the project, and heritage architects Eric Martin & Associates and building company RHG Constructions were contracted to make it happen. Work began in May 2022.
Canberra Croquet Club president Greg Diprose said members ranged in age from 17 to 91, and hoped the upgrades would draw in more.
“The completion of this project now provides a tremendous community asset which the whole Canberra community can utilise and participate in the sport of croquet,” he said.
“The provision of the new facility enables a more welcoming experience for all our members to enjoy, including disability access, more efficient use of the lawns and a much improved storage space for the club.”
The lawns are also available for hire. Mr Diprose said a decent kitchen and toilet would help attract more bookings.
“As it turns out, we are booked out into the new year.”