Hakoah and White City – The Deal is Done

June 22, 2010 by J-Wire Staff
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Hakoah members have woken up today to the news that the Club has secured the White City tennis centre site…and an opportunity to make it a huge  jewel in Sydney’s Jewish community’s crown.

The existing club house

The remarkable deal was signed yesterday bringing to closure three years’ hard work for the Club’s Board Members and for JCA President David Balkin who worked tirelessly to bring the deal over the line.

J-wire publishes the letter members got today from Club president Phil Filler :

It is with great pleasure that I write to you with the news that Hakoah has a new home.

The Hakoah Board of Directors unanimously voted in favour of the purchase of the former White City site in Paddington after it became available at the beginning of June. I am pleased to confirm that settlement has now occurred and Hakoah are the proud new owners of the site. This has been the result of many years of negotiation and persistence from my Board to achieve a legacy for our community that will be on par with the best Jewish Communal Centres around the world.

Our vision for this site is not to duplicate what we had in Hall Street. We seek instead a new dynamic social, sporting, cultural and function facility that meets the current and future needs of the community. It is envisaged that youth, families, mature members, communal organisations and local residents will enjoy this centre as a hub, indeed home, of the community.

There is still much work to be done in the planning and redevelopment of the site in order to achieve our goals. We will continue to consult with the community and our members to ensure that all stakeholders have input in this very important project.

Phil Filler

The reason Hakoah has been able to grow with the needs of the community is because of the support the community and membership has shown over the past four decades. This support has left the legacy that has secured this site for future generations. Hakoah will rely on this ongoing support to make this vision a reality.

I would like to convey the Board’s ongoing appreciation for your continued patience during this exciting time whilst the site is being made ready for use. Ideally we would like to offer members a new clubhouse immediately, however the current clubhouse in its present state is unusable and our view at this point in time is that it is not financially prudent to dedicate resources to a short-term fix but rather commit all our energy and funds to the end goal.

Apart from my Board, which has worked tirelessly for this outcome, I would like take this opportunity to thank life patron Frank Lowy, solicitor Carl Reid, JCA President David Balkin and Maccabi Tennis Club for their invaluable assistance.

In a press release, the Club had this to say:

Following an extensive search for a new clubhouse, Hakoah today announced that it has bought White City Paddington and looks forward to redeveloping the dilapidated site into a state-of-the-art sporting and social centre for the community.

The Hakoah Board has been in protracted negotiations for many years and has now purchased the site for $13.5 million. Hakoah Club President, Phil Filler, said although it had been a long and exhausting journey to buy the property, it was one worth travelling.

“White City is a perfect match for us, and has extraordinary potential to be a vital, dynamic hub for our community,” said Mr Filler.

Once a vibrant, iconic part of Sydney’s sporting life, the property has fallen into great disrepair and has been virtually unused since it was first sold by Tennis NSW in 2005.

Mr Filler commented, “Facilities will include tennis, but also much needed communal amenities for the Eastern Suburbs and Inner City so that we will be looking very closely at the potential for a swimming complex, multi-purpose gymnasium, function rooms, bar, lounge and more.

David Balkin

“The Hakoah membership is renowned for its loyalty. Their patience during the search for a new clubhouse will be rewarded in due course with this new venue.

“The acquisition of the White City site promises to herald a new and exciting chapter in the history of our great club. This new era will not merely be a reflection of the past but a new phase that will engage all segments of the community.

“As a club that has been part of the Eastern Suburbs community for over 40 years we take our responsibilities to our neighbours and stakeholders very seriously.

“Our first exercise after taking ownership of this site will be to consult and openly discuss with people about options for the site. Ultimately we want to create and deliver a fantastic facility that fits in not only with the needs of members but also with the needs of the broader and local community together with the requirements of the public authorities responsible for the use of the property. Certainly members, both current and future, and local residents are considered to be vital in such consultations.

“Through this process a plan will be designed that achieves the needs of the members and local community and makes it sustainable into the future”, he said.

Hakoah Club Patron, Frank Lowy said, “I am very excited at the opportunity that this will create in establishing a new Hakoah Club which will incorporate many amenities that current and future members will enjoy.”Fact Sheet Hakoah Club History

1938-9The first wave of European war refugees are keen to resume soccer in Australia and form a club named Hakoah Football Club (later to be known as Sydney City Football Club).

1954 First sports clubrooms open in Penkivil St, Bondi. 1970 First social club house opened in leased property in Roscoe St, Bondi, under

leadership of Club President, Frank Lowy.

1972 Hakoah purchases half-acre property in Hall St, Bondi and commences to build state-of-the-art clubhouse.

1975 NSW Premier Tom Lewis and Club Patron Syd Einfeld officially open Hall St Hakoah. Club quickly becomes a centre for communal activities with membership exceeding 7,500 after the first decade. The social club is affiliated with the football club until 1987.

1994 Membership reaches 10,000.

1997 A decline in profits commences.

2004 Despite all efforts to arrest declining revenues, Hakoah incurs a financial loss. $1m spent on renovation to ground floor but this only has the effect of reducing losses, not eliminating them.

2007 Directors see no future for Club within existing premises as debt climbs to over $2m. Hall Street premises offered for sale by public tender. Toga Group successful tenderers as members vote in November to approve the sale for $19m. Hakoah repays debt and seeks to preserve remaining equity.

2008-9Hakoah leases back Hall Street premises while looking for a new “home”. Trading losses continue but are now offset by revenue being derived from cash reserves. Nevertheless trading losses become untenable by November 2009 and Hakoah ceases trading in Hall Street premises.

2010 The search continues for a new clubhouse until 21 June when purchase of White City Paddington (2.265 hectares) is announced. Hakoah will be occupying the White City site alongside Sydney Maccabi Tennis Club and Sydney Grammar School.

Current Hakoah membership is approximately 6,500. Club President is Phil Filler. Club Patron is Frank Lowy.

The Hakoah Club is a major sponsor of Maccabi Football Club, as well as a number of communal organisations.

Q&A

What is the timeframe for development? We anticipate it being between two and three years.

What are the plans so far? With settlement only occurring this week, we are now in the initial planning phase and will soon commence the consultation process with stakeholders.

Will you be demolishing any of the buildings? Unfortunately some of the buildings are beyond repair and dangerous. Careful review will need to be undertaken to modernise the site without destroying the historical significance of the property.

Will the current courts be closed to the public? No. In conjunction with Sydney Maccabi Tennis Club, the public will continue to be able to book courts.

Why did the Hakoah Club decide on this site? The former site at Hall St Bondi was past its used-by date. The needs of the community have changed and this site provides the opportunity for facilities more in tune with those needs.

Tennis courts

David Balkin, president of the Jewish Communal Appeal told J-Wire: “The last three years have seen more twists and turns than you can imagine but finally the deal has been done. More than 90% of Sydney’s Jewish community live in the Eastern Suburbs, the South-Eastern Suburbs and the Northern Suburbs. The club is ideally situated for all three areas.” Balkin paid special tribute to community members Greg Shand and Richard Scheinberg who had the forsight to start the ball rolling in securing this site. Balkin added: “When this happened, Hakoah had not yet been sold so no-one knew what funds would have been realised to secure new premises..but Hakoah had to be the obvious choice should the premises become available.”

Club President Phil Filler told J-Wire that the number of members the club could accommodate would not be known until after impact studies had been completed. He did say that it was unlikely to be ready to open its doors for another two years.

Balkin said that the JCA is in a strong position to “know what the community wants”. He said: “If Hakoah wants our help, we will be there.”

Comments

5 Responses to “Hakoah and White City – The Deal is Done”
  1. Guy FOUQUES says:

    Bonjour Hakoah,
    I was President of New Caledonian Soccer and member of Hakoah. Hakoah was visiting Noumea several times , playing games. I use to met very often the club in Hall St;Bondi. Sam Fiszman. Harry Lakmaker. Lederer. Frank Lowy and many others directors.Any way, to All Haloah Members I wish:
    Happy New Year – Excellent Health – Big success for your project. As soon I visit Sydney I will contact you. Many thanks. Yours in sport
    Guy Fouques

  2. paul says:

    Mostly good news for the members, of course…
    But meantime, spare a minute -or two- for local Bondi people (Jewish and the rest of us) who have for the next few years to put up with the misery of demolition and building of the recently State-Government approved Medina Grand Hotel on the site of the old club buiding in Hall Street (plus 3 adjoining sites) and then, once this is built, to suffer the 24-hour-a-day operation of this massively oversized business.
    How come? Here’s how: In 2004, the Hakoah Club managed to convince Waverley Council to approve a redevelopment of that site in order to secure the short- and long-term survival of the Club. That was the argument, pure and simple!
    Council believed that approval meant that the Club would continue to operate on that site, as the proposal contained 2 large floors for the club’s use.
    Three years later, the Club building was bought by Toga (owned by Sydney’s Vidor family), who have now used that 2004 approval to engineer a massively over-sized project in the middle of a small-scale community street.
    Was this a con by the Club?
    Was Council played for suckers?
    Whatever the answer to these and other troubling questions, Waverley Council effectively gave Hakoah Club several million dollars in OK’ing the 2004 approval on the basis of community benefit.
    Now the Club has vanished, and the local community is left to pay the price: with this appalling tourist development that should have been on Campbell Parade, if at all.
    Can anyone tell us why the local Bondi community should not feel ripped off by the actions of Hakoah Club?
    The Bondi Community waits for someone to offer a reasonable reply to what are clearly serious issues.
    HELLO?

  3. Paul walker says:

    Some time ago I danced regularly with the Israei dancers who used tha hall at the club once a week. It was a memorable time and I both enjoyed the company, the music and dancing. I was actually invited to be on the committee for two years. ( subsequently, I gave up dancing because at that time, my knees were needing rapair)
    Can I find the group now?

  4. david singer says:

    As both a Hakoah member and a Maccabi Tennis member I applaud the vision of the Hakoah Board and the great effort made by it and all concerned to secure this wonderful site. The long wait has certainly been justified. May both Clubs go from strength to strength in this new and really exciting venture. I hope it will become a real community centre for everyone to benefit from and enjoy.

  5. Adi says:

    Interested, how could I join the club?