26 August 2020

Mini golf business sunk by aquatic and leisure centre

| Michael Weaver
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The Heron family at the Batemans Bay Mini Golf Centre

Gavin and Debbie Heron with their children Morgan (left) and Charli at Batemans Bay Mini Golf Centre. Photos: Kim Treasure.

The owner of the Batemans Bay Mini Golf Centre in the heart of Batemans Bay says there has been almost no consultation from the Eurobodalla Shire Council over the business’s forced closure to make way for the town’s new $69 million aquatic, arts and leisure centre.

The family-owned business, which has operated successfully in the prime location at the intersection of the Princes Highway and Beach Road for more 18 years, will close on Sunday, 6 September.

Batemans Bay Mini Golf owner Gavin Heron told Region Media he even asked Council and the developer to let the business at least be able to operate through the busy September-October school holiday period, but that request has fallen on deaf ears.

Eurobodalla Shire Council last week awarded the $58 million contract for the construction of Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre to ADCO Constructions (see video below), a national company whose projects include the NSW Rugby League Centre of Excellence, Pimpama Sports Hub on the Gold Coast and the Shellharbour City Hub.

The centre will replace the existing 50-metre outdoor pool at Mackay Park with an indoor multi-pool aquatic centre complete with four water slides and internal and external water play, as well as meeting spaces, a gymnasium and a 350-seat theatre, all joined by a gallery walk that will house a visitor information centre and a cafe.

“It would have been nice to operate through the school holidays – we’re always much busier,” Mr Heron said.

“It’s a great location – one of the best in the area – so it’s a shame that Council thinks that it needs this particular corner and hasn’t been able to include us in their plans.”

Mr Heron said he first heard of the proposal for the Regional Indoor Aquatic and Arts Centre via a Eurobodalla Shire Council post on Facebook several years ago.

“When we first saw the Council’s mud map of the centre on Facebook, we had to do a doubletake and say, ‘hey, that’s where the mini-golf is’. That was our introduction to our eventual demise.

“About six or 12 months later, they [Council] put out three draft proposals for public feedback and we weren’t on any of them, so that’s when we knew our time in any location was limited.

“We were a bit gobsmacked because we’d been reminded by Council on a few occasions that we were important to the tourist landscape of the area.

“After a while, we realised that what they were saying didn’t add up to what their actions were. We’ve always known we were operating on Council land, but we were hoping they would have approached us at some stage and told us we need to uplift because of this new development.

“There’s been very little communication about a relocation,” Mr Heron said.

READ MORE End in sight for Batemans Bay Aquatic Centre campaigners

The family-owned and operated business is exploring several options for another suitable location, but Mr Heron said it will be difficult as the Heron family has prided itself on making the course fun and challenging with themed obstacles and sculptures.

“We can all agree that this year has been an ordeal for everyone for various reasons. We will be taking this opportunity to spend some time together as a family while we assess our prospects for relocation,” the business posted on its Facebook page, which received more than 800 comments.

While the Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre Committee raised almost $80,000 for the aquatic, arts and leisure centre, Mr Heron said he has been surprised by the proposal.

“I think Council has dropped the ball on this. They haven’t listened to the community with regards to a 50-metre pool. The 350-seat auditorium will take business away from other locations around town.

“Irrespective of the impact it’s having on our business, it just feels like a missed opportunity to have a great location for state swimming carnivals, but obviously they’ve decided not to,” Mr Heron said.

The Heron family will bid farewell on 6 September

The Heron family will bid farewell to the iconic mini golf centre at Batemans Bay on 6 September.

Although there are a number of other mini-golf centres in the area, the reaction to the closure of this iconic mini-golf centre has been overwhelmingly supportive for the business.

“It’s become a part of people’s holidays to the area,” Mr Heron said.

“We just want to say a big thank you to all our customers over the past 18 years. The response to our closure has been overwhelming to say the least and it’s going to be very hard to respond to everyone individually.”

In the meantime, Gavin, his wife Debbie and their two children Charli and Morgan are inviting everyone to have “one last round”.

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Trends come and go, especially in beach towns and tourist resorts. I remember when I was a kid, in Forster/Tuncurry there were three trampoline places. I paid 20 cents for an hour and my cuz and I bounced up and down over and over. In those pre-smartphone and gaming days it was all we wanted.

Mini golf was a 1960s novelty imported from the US which has also gone the same way. We had much the same thing here in Woden. Now there are two gyms, a swimming pool and a wellness centre on the site.

Times change and people change. Batemans Bay has done an excellent job renewing the place over the years and is now a much better place than the stodgy, old fashioned place with run-down old buildings it was until around 30 years ago.

I’m sure the council is doing the right thing, and that in the long run we will again be thankful that a forward-thinking council thought about the future and what the residents and tourists want and need.

It may well be a ’60s novelty John, but its come back pretty strongly in the last few years – there is the Mini Golf at the Outlet Centre (or at least was – maybe it has closed down), there is the one at the Power Kartway, the two courses at Weston Park, one at Gold Creek, one in Mitchell I believe, one at the golf centre at Woden. All bar the last built in the last 5 or so years.

I was surprised they couldn’t have found a way to build a new course into the new leisure centre at Batemans Bay. But perhaps they’ll find another site.

Coral Anderson9:30 pm 27 Aug 20

It is a real pity that we had to lose this very popular family business. It is even more of a pity that Council could not have delayed the construction of the new Aquatic, Arts facility (minus the 50m pool that will be also sadly missed) until after the Christmas New Year holiday season. Shame on Council.

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