rack-em-upShirley Dale is urging the community to get behind her idea of turning the old Coles building on Watt Street into a bowling alley. She says the entire town is looking for something new and it’s “a no-brainer”. G013914

By Gav Ross

IT’S touted as one of Wonthaggi’s prime commercial real estate opportunities.
Yet almost two years after Coles picked up their everyday specials and relocated ‘down down’ to Wonthaggi Plaza, the once-bustling bustling supermarket remains a sad, empty shell.
Why?
Ever since the building’s automatic doors were locked to the public, rumours have run rampant concerning who would take over the lease, with contenders ranging from a well-known national clothing and footwear retailer through to whispers about a new cinema complex.
Whatever business sets up shop in the prominent 2500 square metre space, the general consensus among locals is that, after so long, anything would be better than nothing.
Shirley Dale is one resident who feels particularly strongly about the “wasted space”, and she’s come up with what is arguably the best idea yet.
“I believe it’d make a perfect bowling alley,” she declared recently.
“There’s not a lot for visitors to the town to do here and bowling would be something everyone could enjoy.

“Just think about it – children would play on school holidays and older people could form teams and compete during the week.
“I think it’s a marvellous idea for Wonthaggi.”
Shirley said she has no vested interest in ten pin bowling becoming a reality in Wonthaggi.
In fact, she doesn’t even play.
But that’s not the point.
“It will bring people to Wonthaggi and it will give them something to do other than go to the pokies,” she continued.
“I’ve already asked many others what they think and they all said ‘yes, that would be wonderful’.
“There hasn’t been a negative word said about it.”
Shirley also believes there would be “no point” in a retailer big or small leasing the premises again since “all the shops have already gone down the plaza way”.
“It would just be wasted as another retail outlet,” she said.
“We’ve already seen that when Coles was here.
“People won’t come up here to do their grocery shopping, but something like a bowling alley would be different.
“We’ve got a nice large car park already here, and the old bottle shop space could be turned into a cafeteria – it’s perfect!
“The nice police officers across the road may even like to wander over and have a bowl sometimes.”
For lovers of ten pin bowling, the nearest recreational centres are in Cowes, Cranbourne and Morwell.
Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Neil Rankine, was not surprised to hear that a bowling business had been brought up by a community member.
He said the idea has been floated before, as recently as last year when the council was preparing a proposal to turn the complex into a youth activity centre – something which could have also incorporated arcade/games machines and youth services information.
“Unfortunately the owners of that building are not happy with that idea,” Cr Rankine said.
Cr Rankine said a bowling alley was the most popular idea among students surveyed at Wonthaggi Secondary College when the activity centre proposal was being compiled.
Cr Rankine agreed with comments the vacant site is going to waste.
“I’m surprised it hasn’t been vandalised more than it already has been,” he said.
Ian Robertson, principal of CRS Property, the Melbourne-based commercial real estate firm advertising the Watt Street building, says the space is “more than big enough” for a bowling alley, but the cost of fitting out the premises could be a hurdle.
“There would be a lot of costs to set it up for that specific use,” he said.
“It would be a considerable amount.”
Mr Robertson said he welcomes enquiries regarding any use of the building that would “engage the community”.
“We are open to all ideas,” he said.
“It’s in a prime position with lots of car parking.”
Mr Robertson said the entire floor space of the building needn’t be leased to one retailer, either.
“It’s a large space but it could be subdivided (to cater for) smaller community-type uses or retailers,” he said.
Mr Robertson added that “quite an economical rental could be negotiated for the right use” and he welcomed further enquiries.
Wonthaggi Business Association president, Ross Langlois, said turning the building into some kind of sporting complex, bowling or not, would be a “much better” use of the venue.
“The shopping centre part of the town is moving away from there now, and I think some sort of sporting complex could be fantastic,” Mr Langlois said.
“I’d love to see it turned into something like that if we could find some investors.”
Whatever the outcome, Mr Langlois said the building desperately needs “something”.
And fast.
“It’s a massive white elephant, really,” he said.