Mingara is more than just a club, it is a monument to a group of ordinary but dedicated people who strived for and reached a goal to benefit their community.

Back in the 1970s, the Central Coast was a relaxed holiday haven with limited recreation and sporting facilities for the local community. Berkeley Vale, Tumbi Umbi and surrounding areas were under-developed and the community was crying out for places to go.

A visionary group of neighbours came together and formed a working party to identify community need and the types of facilities that would benefit the area.

They were a friendly bunch, who yearned for a place they could come together and relax with a few drinks, cook a barbecue and have fun playing sports like lawn bowls and tennis. The lack of leisure and sporting facilities in the area inspired them to work towards creating a club.

The first official public meeting to create this new club was held on 26 October, 1971, in the lounge room at the home of Clive and Shirley Hadley. They lived on Lakedge Avenue, Berkeley Vale. It was a cosy affair, as Clive and Shirley welcomed 19 people into their home for the inaugural meeting chaired by Shirley.

It was at this, as well as many subsequent meetings, that the dreams of the local community started to become a reality. Perpetual motion, dedication and relationship building with State and Local Government members, Council and the Lands Department; enabled the allocation of Crown Land for the purpose of building a club at Berkeley Vale.

Funds for a clubhouse

With the promise of land, the excitement felt by the neighbours propelled fundraising activities. Their goal was to get money in the bank so they could build a clubhouse. Various social and fundraising activities occurred throughout 1972 and 1973. Funds were raised by the usual means of raffles, games nights and a 100 Club. Who would think to raffle a dog, racing-collar and kennel? Mingara did! They used local community halls for meetings and fundraising, but really needed their own place to anchor the foundations of the club. Until this point, the club was known as ‘The Berkeley Vale Sports Complex”, but on 5 July 1972, the members passed a motion to change the name to Mingara Recreation Club. “Mingara” meaning “the good spirit that controls the clouds”.

The Club members created schemes to help youth sport in cricket, basketball and other sporting activities to cater for youth in general. A decision was made to establish a bowling green to give the Club an immediate sport to promote. Lawn Bowls during the 1970s was the 6th most popular sport in Australia with bowling clubs popping up all around the country. The game of lawn bowls fostered a real community spirit, a friendly rivalry and it became an important part of the social fabric of life in Australia.

By October 1973 membership of Mingara had grown from 27 to 200. The following month, the Lands Office at East Maitland confirmed an allocation of 1.54 hectares of land in Adelaide Street, Tumbi Umbi, for the purpose of building a club. The members accepted the terms of the leasehold with an annual rent of $168 per year. The Club eventually purchased the land for $50,000.

At this time, Mingara’s activities for fundraising grew in scope and had increased financial return. The bank balance was $1,561.92 and members were making plans to build a clubhouse. On 19 June 1974, Wyong Shire Council approved for a bowling and recreation club to be built on the allocated land and the construction of four tennis courts.

Without much money, Mingara’s founding members, led by Club Secretary, Shirley Hadley, had to think creatively as to how they’d be able to build their first clubhouse.  They decided to attend an auction at Holsworthy Army Barracks to see if they could acquire an old army hut. They did! Not just one, but two. These became the first Mingara Clubhouse.

Before the army huts could be modified for use as the Clubhouse, the Adelaide Street land had to be cleared. In true club spirit, members came together, pushed up their sleeves and slashed, chopped, dug, burned and bulldozed until the land was clear and ready. To join and refurbish the army huts inside and out, $30,000 was borrowed from the Rural Bank. It was tireless work, generous volunteers with a common vision for their community made it happen.

On 7 June 1976, Shirley Hadley resigned as Secretary of Mingara, a position she had filled with enthusiasm, dedication and without interruption since the formation of the club back in 1971.  Following an election, the role of Secretary was filled by Peter Hale.

After much elbow grease, many a beery barbecue, the new clubhouse was completed and officially opened on 4 December 1976.

A growing local hub

Mingara’s popularity was immediate amongst the local community. As it was intended, it quickly became the social hub of the community with many friendships made. A few characters of the membership created the infamous Keg Club…a system created by a cheeky few who weren’t really interested in the technical legalities of operating a bar! The Keg Club served these early members well…it was a simple system, based on honesty. You’d put in a dollar amount, say $10 and this credit would be written into the Keg Club book alongside your name, then as you ordered another beer from the voluntary barman, a debit cross of 40 or 60 cents would go against your name. This was for each schooner. As the crosses in the book accumulated and speech started to slur, the cry would come from the barman (who was also a member usually with an even greater thirst) – ‘you’ve only got $2 left, time to hit the can again’. We’ve been told this system worked well back in the day!

This was just the start of memorable times shared with great people!

In 1978 the next mission for the foundation members of Mingara was to raise more money to construct a bowling green. Incredibly, they raised $62,000 for the construction of the very first all-weather bowling green in the Southern Hemisphere, officially known as a Henselite Scapegreen. The bowling green was officially opened in July 1978 and was named the ‘Bernie Higgins Green’ in honour of member, Bernie Higgins for his dedication and financial contributions to the Club. A group of members then formed the first internally affiliated club for lawn bowls.

In continuing to deliver their vision for the community, the members next turned their ambition to building tennis courts. With the assistance of Wyong Shire Council, four all-weather courts were completed in March 1979.

Both the bowling green and tennis courts were an investment of $250,000 into providing facilities for the local community. Without the commitment and determination of these early Mingara members, the community would have waited many more years before having sporting facilities like these available.  At this time, membership had grown from 230 to 420, still a relatively small number of people coming together to achieve great things.

The Adelaide Street Club

Mingara’s growth and stability as a club saw it granted ‘incorporation’ as a club on 19 December 1978. This milestone then allowed the Club to apply for a liquor license, which was approved at Gosford Licensing Court on 17 July 1979. It wasn’t long after this ‘one-armed bandits’ appeared. The beer flowed, membership grew and the Club’s financial position became strong. Takings increased from $3,000 a week to $22,000 a week and it became apparent a management team and paid staff were required, along with a larger premises.

So it was on. Meetings ensued with banks, architects, builders and Council. A development application for a $1.2 million, 1600m2 club was lodged  and approved…but how would it be funded?

It was truly a gamble, for almost the entire year of 1980, meetings were held with almost every bank and financial institution available in the quest to finance the development with no luck. In a gutsy move, the Club decided to start construction anyway! As the project commenced, a final application for finance was made to ANZ Bank and Esanda Finance Limited, and just a few weeks after commencing construction, the club had secured $500,000 to fund the first stage of project.

It took just 14 weeks for the first half of the new Adelaide Street, Tumbi Umbi Club to be completed and this first section of the Club commenced trading on 30 April 1981, with 64 staff on board. Within 2 weeks of opening the first stage, Mingara’s future was confirmed. The overwhelming popularity of the new Club building saw turnover of $48,000 a month skyrocket to $205,000 in the first month and from there it continued to rise.

It was this meteoric growth and incredible support from the local community that allowed Mingara to forge ahead into the 1980s to complete the $1.2 million building project. From tin hut to luxury club in one mighty stride, the project was completed and the finished club featured an entertainment lounge, auditorium, restaurant, sports bar, beer garden and outdoor play equipment. The new Club was officially opened with a gala celebration on 5 October 1981, by the Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowen, who congratulated Mingara on ‘a remarkable achievement within the space of very few years’.

The opening of the new Adelaide Street premises was a bittersweet moment for Mingara’s founding members who said a teary farewell to those repurposed army huts that served them so well. So many great times, so many great friends, so many great memories. The huts were donated to Berkeley Vale Youth Club, situated in Myrtle Brush Road, Berkeley Vale.

In 1983, Mingara shunned the recession in Australia and with its ever-present progressive mindset, introduced a myriad of promotions to the Club, catering for mum, dad, gran and the children. It launched a positioning statement of ‘Something for everyone’. Promotions and game shows featuring prizes like new cars and $20,000 worth of home renovation services, as well as large cash prizes, were strategically created not only for fun, but also to offer life changing opportunities for Club members.

Securing Mingara Drive

Mingara’s popularity continued to increase and population on the Central Coast was on the rise. The Club’s Board of Directors and Management realised the new premises would eventually be outgrown. Their visionary style of management saw them planning for the future. They planned for expansion on a scale that would allow the Club to provide more facilities for its increasing membership and one that would also help position the Club as a destination for tourism.

In 1987, the Club purchased 44.6 hectares of vacant land on Wyong Road at Tumbi Umbi. Mingara’s vision was to create integration of recreation, entertainment, and leisure facilities. It was an ambitious plan that took two years to establish before a rezoning application was lodged for a new development on the Wyong Road site.

With a bright future ahead, the Board of Directors saw the need for a Chief Executive Officer position at the Club. They needed someone to help steer the ship and provide strategic guidance. John Osborne was appointed to this role in 1987. At the time, the Club had a turnover of $6.7 million and 45 employees.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the Board of Directors and Management were largely focused on plans for the new Wyong Road facilities. Despite this, they didn’t lose sight of maintaining and servicing their existing members and injected a further $900,000 (funded from cash flow) into refurbishing and expanding the Club in Adelaide Street.

Positioning itself as ‘A new sensation’, the expansion of Mingara saw a new buffet style restaurant, ‘Fillets’, featuring an outdoor eating area; a function room called ‘The Berkeley Room’; an expansion of the entertainment lounge; the addition of the ‘Eureka Lounge’ (outside the Keg Bar) and an expansion of back of house facilities, the cellar and dry store.

The need for diversification of the business was also apparent at this time and with the vision of the new Wyong Road site firmly in mind, the Club added retail outlets to the Adelaide Street Club. These included Shape and Style Hairdresser and Traveland Travel Agency.

Community minded, local and interstate

In 1994, NSW was in terrible drought. Crops were dry and farmers were struggling to get feed for sheep and cattle. Mingara received a call for assistance from a former member, Paul Lewis. At times of crisis, clubs are always there for the community and Mingara launched into an urgent operation to assist Paul and the plight of Brewarrina, a farming township 50km east of Bourke in NSW.  Paul wrote to Mingara not asking for money, but for fodder to feed stock.

To answer his plea, Mingara, along with Wyong Shire Council and other local organisations, coordinated a fodder convoy to the town of Brewarrina. 4,200 bales of fodder were transported and when it arrived in town, farmers were lined up waiting to get an allocation. Drought conditions were devastating at the time, demand was so great the allocation to each farmer had to be halved to ensure everyone got a fair share.

It’s times like this that clubs come into their own. Our community is not just our local area, it includes cousins in far-away places. Clubs are there when times are hard and when there’s nowhere else to go. The sense of community and care for people that clubs provide is genuine and valuable.  This is the foundation of Mingara, it’s where we have come from and why our vision is to make a significant contribution to the quality of community life.

Dreams are realised

Years passed following the purchase of land at Tumbi Umbi and there was skepticism that the ‘new Mingara’ wouldn’t happen! Soil was eventually turned in 1995 and people were excited at the enormity of the project.

Dreams were realised in 1996, as the new Mingara Recreation Club was completed. From a parochial club, with its origins founded by a small core of local neighbours, the move to Mingara Drive saw the Club become a real icon for leisure and recreation on the Central Coast and a leader in the club industry.

Mingara opened the doors to its new $31 million state-of-the-art complex at Mingara Drive, Tumbi Umbi on 28 October 1996. The new premises boasted a resort-style atmosphere that was innovative and at the cutting edge of facility design. The Club excelled in the provision of diverse facilities, including multiple entertainment, dining, bar, functions, sporting and leisure options, which appealed to a broad range of patrons. In March 1997, thousands of people turned out to attend the Official Opening of Mingara’s new $31 million complex by Governor General, Sir William Deane.

A unique feature of the development was the construction of the Mingara Aquatics Centre. In a first-of-kind business relationship for a project like this, Mingara partnered with Wyong Shire Council to create the new Centre. The swimming complex housed a 50m Olympic indoor, heated pool, hydrotherapy pool, leisure pools, spas, and rapid river ride and grandstand, along with a health club, crèche, and retail outlets providing sports medicine, massage, and physiology.

In early 2000, Mingara continued its commitment to provide leisure facilities for the Central Coast and commenced construction of the Central Coast Regional Athletics Centre (now Mingara Regional Athletics Centre). The Centre is the result of a unique funding partnership between Central Coast Athletics, Wyong Shire Council, Gosford City Council, NSW State Government, and Mingara. The project is believed to be the first cooperation between two tiers of government, State and Local; Mingara a limited company; and a community sporting group. The $3.6 million development was officially opened on 5 November 2000 and featured an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) standard all-weather synthetic athletics track and also offered a full complement of modern athletics equipment.

Along with regional athletics training and competitions, the Centre hosts many elite events. Local schools benefit each year with many school athletics carnivals hosted. In June 2003, the Centre was named a NSW Institute of Sport Regional High Performance Centre.

After 15 years at the helm of Mingara, in 2001, John Osborne resigned from his position of Chief Executive Officer, leaving behind a prosperous business that has become a benchmark in the wider hospitality industry. John passed the baton to Paul Barnett, who over 20 years later, remains the Chief Executive Officer, and who continues to deliver the Club’s progressive vision and community spirit.

The club’s dedication to becoming one of Australia’s premier entertainment and leisure venues continued in 2002, as work commenced on a $15 million expansion and renovation project. The key feature of the project was the addition of three new restaurants including an Italian themed restaurant – Panarottis Pizza Pasta, The Coffee Club, and Scallywags Family Feasts. Work also included upgrades to lounge areas, bowling greens, Convention Centre, TAB, Legends Sports Bar, entry foyer, and the outdoor terrace area.

Mingara’s face-lift was finished in July 2003 and a few months later unveiled a new logo and positioning statement of ‘Life’s Great’. To signify the completion of the project and a new direction for Mingara, a gala dinner and free family concert was held, featuring Nikki Webster, live entertainment, fireworks, and carnival rides.

Progressive is a word that is ingrained in the spirit of Mingara. It was this spirit and sense of community that saw Mingara develop a club amalgamation strategy. With community interest at heart and many clubs in NSW in crisis, Mingara bravely added another club to its family.

Expansion Continues

In 2006, Mingara amalgamated with Westport Bowling Club, now called The Westport Club.  The Westport Club has undergone significant restructure and physical change. The Westport Club is back to being a favourite venue for Port Macquarie locals, thanks to a lot of love and embracing the Mingara way.

Continual reinvention is one of the ingredients integral to Mingara’s success and right on the back of its amalgamation with The Westport Club, Mingara undertook more renovations at Tumbi Umbi. Three new restaurants were created, Indigo – Eats, Treats and Bar, Ming Dragon and Fortune Cookie, offering members a fantastic variety of dining choices. Timeless design and fantastic product has seen these restaurants become a favourite with locals for nearly a decade.

In October 2008, construction of the new Mingara One Fitness Centre was completed. The project worth $7.75 million has provided Mingara members and the Central Coast community with one of the finest fitness centres in Australia and has won accolades to support this claim! The development also delivered a Wellness Centre, housing a physiotherapist, hairdresser, beauty therapist, martial arts studio, and café.

With so much growth and a strategy to continue, Mingara realised it needed to create a support system for its venues.  Mingara Leisure Group was born in July 2010 and is the supporting body to Mingara Recreation Club and all clubs that now sit under its umbrella. Mingara Leisure Group has become a leader in the NSW Registered Clubs industry with extensive expertise and success in the amalgamation and management of hospitality, fitness, and lifestyle venues. It has a team of specialised professionals who are passionate about supporting and coaching the management and operations teams at all our venues.  Along with our customer-facing teams and management at each venue, Mingara Leisure Group is a critical key to the success of the organisation.

Following the success of the amalgamation with The Westport Club, Mingara was also able to breathe new life into Roselands Bowling Club and Punchbowl Ex-Services & Community Club.  Due to a very aged building, a decision was made to transfer the Punchbowl members to nearby Roselands, combine the two memberships and build a brand-new club building for the members.  The $15 million building project commenced in October 2011 and produced Lantern Club, a beautiful, boutique style club that brightens the life of the community of Roselands, Punchbowl and surrounds.  The new Club officially opened in November 2012.

2012 also saw Mingara amalgamate with Gordon Rugby Club at Chatswood, with refurbishments to the venue and a new club brand launched in 2014. The intimate, boutique club set on the rooftop of the Mandarin Centre in Chatswood, was known as Pearl Club Chatswood.  The lease to this property expired and as we were unable to secure another property in the local area, the club closed in November 2018.

Mingara spread its wings further during 2016 and underwent amalgamation with Springwood Sports Club in the Blue Mountains, NSW. The club recently underwent a $1 million refurbishment and a new team has mobilised to deliver a fresh, new club experience to the Blue Mountains community.

In 2018-2019, Mingara once again transformed. The club’s external entry and internal entry foyer had a $4 million transformation. The scale and quality of this work have created a timeless new look for the club and its member, cementing our position as being one of the premier clubs in NSW. A new post office and new access to ground floor businesses, coupled with stunning entry statements, of a glistening pond and our iconic ‘M’ lighting up the lives of those who spend time with us and adding excitement to every visit, then the breathtaking ceiling feature in the foyer as members and guests enter. There is nothing like us on the Central Coast…and this is only the beginning. The entire combination of this work allows us to transport our visitors to a truly special place where they can relax and enjoy great times.

In 2019, Mingara was given an opportunity to secure another club, this time within its own local area. The Greens, The Entrance underwent amalgamation with Mingara Leisure Group in September 2019. With barely enough time to start working through operational requirements to help improve the club’s situation, the club caught fire in March 2020. The fire caused extensive damage and thankfully no one was injured. As a result, the club has been closed whilst insurance assessments are completed. This process greatly inhibited by the global pandemic – Covid-19. Mingara Leisure Group continues to work through plans for a rebuild and is hopeful to commence in 2021.

In all this development and through all these amalgamations, our core has not been lost. Mingara itself is currently undertaking a major refurbishment that will further secure its future and ensure it remains relevant in the local community for generations to come.

Our story is incredible… from a suburban lounge room in Berkeley Vale to five venues in locations all over NSW. Our story is a monument to a group of ordinary but dedicated people who have strived for and reached a goal to benefit their community. This is the heart of Mingara and why our vision is to make a significant contribution to the quality of community life.