As dusk settles in Hermosa Beach and night creeps in, lights turn on one-by-one in Clark Stadium. The baseball field’s high-powered flood lights illuminate the pitch, and tennis balls can be heard hitting taunt rackets. The 6.56 acre park hums with action as community members take advantage of the well-lit facilities. While the rest of the park stays alive and awash with life and light, at the darkened southeast corner men and women file out of the lush lawn bowling green, lock the gate and go home for the evening.
“We can’t play in the evening because of the light,” said Lawn Bowling Club President George Renshaw. “Everything else has flood lights.”
The park’s namesake, John Clark, originally gained approval from the Hermosa Beach City Council to install a lawn bowling green at his own expense in 1935, about $2,000. Now, the founding part of the park is one of the only places not illuminated at night. The 40-member club has gone down in numbers in recent years because of lack of interest, but Renshaw wants to change that.
“We want to bring in more members, and more youth,” said Renshaw. “Young people say they’re sick of the bar scene, bicycles and skateboards— but they can’t bowl during the day because of work, and they can’t bowl in the evening because there’s no light.”
Renshaw, who has bowled since he was 15 years old, sees the lack of light as a hindrance to youth membership because of tough work schedules. He believes that if the green had flood lights, more people would join because it would be open for longer in the evening.
“One day we had about six boys come in around six at night,” said Renshaw. “They had skateboards and I thought, ‘Oh boy we’re in for some trouble,’ [but] they just wanted to join. They said they had nothing to do in the evening, but they found they couldn’t [play after dark] so they lost interest. It showed me that the youth is interested – it’s not just the old fogies you think about— there’s lots of young people and lots of old people.”
37-year-old Aaron Zangl, the 2011 U.S. Lawn Bowling National Champion, joined the Hermosa Beach Lawn Bowling Club for the first time six years ago.
“I took a lesson and really liked it,” said Zangl, who lives nearby and started because he walked by the club often. “They’re all very welcoming… It’s just nice to be outside, it’s very calming. Plus it’s really simple and easy to pick up from the beginning. It’s not intimidating and helps to get you active and have a nice social afternoon outside,” Zangl said.
Recently Zangl brought a group of friends from Wisconsin to the green to teach them how to play.
“I didn’t know what it was all about,” Jason Klotz, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said. “But it’s great, and very relaxing. It’s about camaraderie and teamwork.”
Lawn bowling is a strategic game, based on trial-and-error, as well as ball weight and curvature. The aim of the game is to get as many of the four-pound elliptical balls as close as possible to a white ball called a mark, or jack. Teammates can stack up balls to create walls around the mark, but those obstacles can be blown apart by the bowls of the other team. A team receives a point for each bowl that is closest to the mark.
Both Renshaw and Zangl said that the game is addictive and challenging, which is what keeps the members coming back.
“It gives you a good feeling of accomplishment,” Renshaw said.
The club participates in competitions across the state, alternately hosting competitions in Hermosa Beach. Their club house, a well organized room full of trophies, is also often open to birthday parties, anniversaries and other local events. However, the lack of light often poses a problem for evening and summer schedules.
“Now if you want to bowl at night you have to go to Long Beach,” Renshaw said.
Zangl also agrees that adding lights and incorporating twilight bowling into the schedule would be beneficial for the club.
“Young people work during the day,” said Zangl. “If it were open at night a member would always be here, [plus] it’s not a sport that attracts a hooligan crowd.”
Renshaw said he is worried that the neighbors would complain about the lights, but since other parts of the park are already lit up, he hopes it won’t be too big of a deal to install more.
Hermosa Manager Tom Bakaly said that the city will be going over their budget soon and will keep lights for the club in mind after the project is submitted to the council.
“We have a lot of capital projects to consider,” Bakaly said. “We’ll have to weigh the decision with other ones.”
“I love this place,” Renshaw said. “But it’s up to the city—my point is that every other aspect [of the park] is well lit except this corner, where we need it.” ER