Maffra’s Community Sports Club transformed a former hotel that was built during the late 1800s into an outstanding, modern community venue, equal to anything seen in a large city, whilst maintaining its original country character and historical values. Visiting patrons and members enjoy the grand opulent environment in various ways. The choices include alfresco dining on the elevated verandah, a quiet fireside drink or meal in the Bistro. The venue also has TAB, KENO and numerous viewing screens bringing Fox Sport to those who don’t want to miss a game.

Kevin Lanigan, who has been the club’s treasurer for many years, said the monumental community achievement began with a dream more than 20 years ago and a need to keep people in the town. “At the time there wasn’t a licence in Maffra for gaming machines and people were going out of the town to Sale where there were six gaming venues.”

In an effort to curb the outflow, three Maffra sporting clubs and the Chamber of Commerce tried individually to establish a gaming venue but were rejected by Tabaret. They then decided to come together representing the sporting and business community with the hope of achieving it as a group.

Eventually, the Maffra Bowling Club, Maffra Football Club and the Chamber of Commerce headed by Geoff Stobie, who was chairman and a local business owner, formed the Maffra Community Sports Club.

They started researching and meeting with representatives from the Shire, the State Government as well as representatives from Tabaret and Tattersalls. Time was then spent searching for a venue, which concluded with talking to the proprietors of the Maffra Hotel. The newly formed group leased the hotel with an option to buy. They then did a low-cost renovation and gained a gaming licence.

To raise the money they needed for the project, they borrowed from local sporting group members and business owners through an unsecured debenture scheme. “They were promised about eight per cent interest, which at the time was above bank interest rates,” Kevin said. “It could have fallen over but the Maffra community wanted it to happen.”

During the second year, the club were able to pay back the debenture holders and borrow money from the bank to purchase the freehold. Kevin said the club successfully continued on from there. “It’s a non-profit incorporated association with all its members owning the freehold and the profits distributed to sporting clubs and individuals for sporting endeavours.”

The club opened in 1997 and to date has given direct donations to local sporting clubs in excess of 1.7 million dollars.

Over the years, there have been a few renovations and then the major renovation in 2015 that took 12 months to complete. It was funded by a mortgage taken out with the Maffra and District Community (Bendigo) Bank.

From the renovation, a modern venue was created while maintaining the character of the original hotel by keeping a lot of the old brickwork, the steel beams and some of the old Baltic pine flooring. The first task in the project was re-building the verandah, which was taken off the front of the building during the late 1980s. - Gippsland Lifestyle Magazine