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Welcome to Nationwide Bowler

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Nationwide Bowler Magazine
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Pott of GOLD

The story of Potters Leisure Resort, the home of the World Indoor Championships, is a truly fascinating tale.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…

Once upon a time, around 1913 in fact, there was a poorly-paid solicitor’s clerk who won £500 in a newspaper competition. That was quite a tidy sum in those days but, before the man could spend it, he was drafted for duty in the First World War.

During his service, he fought in the Battle of the Somme, one of the biggest battles in history, and one which claimed the lives of over 1.5million soldiers.

Mercifully, our protagonist survived and, upon his return home, he looked at his £500 and decided to use it to set up the first holiday camp in the country with permanent accommodation structures, which he named Potters Leisure Resort.
Years and decades passed as the destination grew and grew and, today, under the stewardship of third generation owner, Brian Potter – the hero of our story’s grandson – it stands proud as the last, privately-owned holiday leisure resort in the country.

Truly, Potters Leisure Resort is a unique place and, to bowlers the world over, it is the sport’s spiritual home, playing host, as it does, to the World Indoor Championships every January.
Indeed, 2009 will mark the 11th consecutive year that the resort has hosted the championships. However, had it not been for a huge gamble and a bit of brilliant business nous on the part of Brian, the path of history could have been so different.
“I was probably the first person to go into indoor bowls in a big way because, in the mid-1980s, and being on the cold, draughty, east coast, we were only operating an 18-week season, from May to September,” explains Brian.

“My father had just died and I was faced with seeing how I could extend the season beyond these 18 weeks.
“We started to do one or two weekends but, at that time, we had a team of over 250 and I was having to stand them off between Monday and Friday. So, what could I do to fill the week when everybody was at work?

“It was one morning, whilst shaving, that I had my ‘Archimedes in the bath’ moment and I suddenly thought, ‘What do retired people do?’ It was at this time that a quiet revolution was taking place in bowls with the indoor game becoming more and more popular. It also happened that, around the same time, I was constructing a mini sports complex with a badminton hall and a single-storey building alongside. So, I finished my shave and hurried across to see our site foreman. I said to him, ‘Is there a chance of being able to get a second storey on this building?’ because it was long enough for two rinks of indoor bowls. We consulted a few people and it came back that, yes, we could. So, the second storey was added and our first two rinks duly opened.

“As it turned out, though, two rinks weren’t sufficient because demand was so high. So, the following year, I built another complex which added a further six rinks of indoor bowls. As a result, our weeks soon filled up.”

Not content with that, Brian decided that he wanted to explore some of the other possibilities that bowls had to offer – namely, the honour of hosting the World Indoor Championships.
“It was around the mid-1990s that I wondered if I could persuade the organisers of the World Indoor Championships to move from their then home at Preston - where they had been since 1986 - to my resort in Norfolk,” adds Brian.
“I set about plans for a new, plug-and-play, made-for-TV arena that I could bolt-on to the resort and that could host the competition in the event that they decided to move.

“However, whilst the organisers took on-board my approach, they were not interested. They were happy in Preston and had no intentions of moving.

“Undeterred, I took a big gamble in building the arena anyway, which cost £2.5million, and it was my hope that, when I got it up and running, the World Bowls Council would be able to see that our resort was perfect for their requirements. Not only would they have a world-class arena, they would also have plentiful on-site
accommodation, catering and so on.

“In any case, we got the complex open and, in its first year, we hosted the EWIBA Indoor Championships. It was such a huge success that, much to my surprise, the World Indoor Championships was re-located to our venue in time for the following year.” That was in 1998 and the rest, as they say, is history. Eleven years have since passed, during which time Brian, his family and their dedicated team of 408 have hosted, not only the world’s top bowlers and officials, but thousands of eager spectators. And their verdict is unanimous – nowhere does bowls better than Potters.
Brian believes that the ‘one big family’ ethos of the company is partly responsible for that.

“It really is a team effort here at Potters Leisure Resort,” he says. “If you can get friendly staff, like we do, then that pervades a friendly atmosphere throughout the company, like we have. During the World Indoor Championships, in particular, it is lovely to see the world’s top bowlers mingling so happily with our guests.”

That Brian and his team are able to maintain such good humour and unwavering customer satisfaction throughout the Championships is no mean feat given the amount of work the event requires from them.

“Now that we’re into our eleventh year, we’ve got a well-established pattern for hosting the World Indoor Championships,” he reveals. “Dales Sports Surfaces install the portable blue rink and we provide the seating. Then there’s the unknown quantity of the number of spectators we’ll have to cater for on top of the 600 residents we host on a full-board basis. So, from a catering point of view, having just survived Christmas and New Year, the bowls is quite a major undertaking for us – but it’s one that we all love and look forward to with great anticipation.”
It’s quite clear that Brian and his team are as passionate about bowls as they are about the leisure industry. Remarkably, though, he has only tried his hand at playing the game once.

“I have made a greater financial investment in indoor bowls than anyone else in the world. Potters is the largest indoor bowls centre in the world, and the place we organise trips to in Cyprus is the largest outdoor bowls centre in the world. So, you’d think that I’d be quite a dab-hand at the game by now,” explains Brian. “However, I have only ever picked up a bowl once. I went up to our two-rinker with Tony Allcock and I only put down one bowl – and it nearly went right through the back of the building!”

Brian hopes that the resort will continue to prosper long after he has gone, with son John primed to take over his throne. And should John’s young son then, in turn, take over, it’s fair to say that the resort will have an added touch of magic about it. Why? Because John’s son, born on Hallowe’en, is called Harry. That’sright, he’s Harry Potter!

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