Community clubs up cool factor

They reinvent themselves with fancy facilities such as a water activity centre and an observatory

Senja-cashew Community Club. -- PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Senja-cashew Community Club. -- PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Tanjong Pagar Community Club. -- PHOTO: PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION
Anchorvale Community Club. -- PHOTO: PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION
Woodlands Galaxy Community Club. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN FILE
Nee Soon Central Community Club. -- PHOTO: PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION

An art gallery. A water activity centre. An Olympic-size swimming pool.

Sounds like your average country club? Nope, these facilities can now be found at some community clubs (CCs).

At Tanjong Pagar CC, you can view paintings, photographs and pottery works created by residents and artists at its revamped art gallery.

For a workout, go kayaking at Anchorvale CC's water activity centre or do laps at Senja-Cashew CC's Olympic-size pool.

In the last four years, CCs have evolved to become lifestyle venues with these new leisure facilities.

Older ones have undergone glitzy makeovers, such as Tanjong Pagar CC which now has a childcare centre and eateries.

Newer ones come with unique selling points. For example, Woodlands Galaxy CC, which opened last year, boasts an observatory for residents to go star-gazing.

There are currently 107 CCs, which are run by the People's Association, a statutory board that promotes community bonding through various grassroots bodies.

More exciting lifestyle facilities are in the pipeline.

A bowling alley is planned for the upcoming Keat Hong CC, which is slated to open in 2016.

If the plan falls into place, it will be the first CC with a bowling alley.

Tampines Town Hub, touted as a giant lifestyle hub with Singapore's largest CC, will also open its doors in 2016.

The hub, about the size of seven football fields, will also house facilities such as a performing arts theatre, swimming pools, a futsal court and retail shops.

In 2018, Nee Soon Central CC will be Singapore's first CC to be housed entirely within a shopping mall. It will also be the first fully air-conditioned CC here.

Most residents are delighted with the new developments.

Says Nee Soon resident Christina Ang, 55, a housing agent: "I'm looking forward to shopping at the upcoming mall while my grandchildren attend courses at the CC."

Says Tampines resident Felicia Tay, 49, who lives three bus-stops away from the upcoming Tampines Town Hub: "It sounds wonderful. I can't wait for it to be completed."

During the school holidays, the pet groomer usually goes to Tampines Swimming Complex with her 11-year-old daughter every fortnight.

Says Ms Tay: "After swimming, we usually have to walk 200m to get dinner. It'd be so convenient to have the pool and restaurants under one roof."

But not everyone is thrilled. Says Tampines resident Tay Siew Liang, 70: "I don't think I'll go to this big CC. It will probably be very crowded."

The retiree adds: "What's wrong with keeping things simple? You can have line- dancing and art classes and still engage the community."

The first CCs - then called community centres - were built in the early 1950s to encourage community development.

Mr Daniel Tham, 33, assistant curator at the National Museum of Singapore, says these early CCs had health clinics, libraries, canteens, children's playgrounds and spaces for indoor games and dances.

They also had television sets, which proved popular, especially among those who could not afford their own television sets, he adds.

But as society changed, so did the CCs.

Mr William Lau, 58, president of the Singapore Institute of Planners, says: "Singaporeans have become more affluent. We've also become more sophisticated in our lifestyle choices. Malls, cinemas, integrated resorts - we are spoilt for choice on where to go every weekend.

"If the CCs want to attract the masses, they will have to continue re-inventing themselves to stay relevant."

At one point, CCs were regarded as the haunt of housewives and retirees.

In 2010, the People's Association announced a five-year masterplan to breathe new life into CCs.

According to previous reports, the masterplan involved at least 15 CCs. Twelve would be upgraded with fancier facilities, such as a water sports facility and a rock-climbing wall, and at least three would be moved to new premises.

Upgrading costs are estimated to range from $3.5 million to $5 million for each CC, while a new CC is expected to cost $10 million to $11 million.

Grassroots leaders say getting the new facilities up and running is no easy task.

Mr Raymond Chua, 58, who heads the Citizens' Consultative Committee of Sengkang West Constituency, under which Anchorvale CC falls, says: "We had to look into funding the project and make sure all safety and environmental requirements are met."

The Government typically bears most of the cost of building or upgrading CCs, but a small proportion is often raised by grassroots organisations.

Anchorvale CC's water activity centre opened in March.

Mr Chua adds: "As the activities are conducted in Punggol Reservoir, we also had to ensure residents keep the water clean by not swimming in it."

The People's Association aims to move with the times.

Mr Ang Hak Seng, 54, the association's chief executive director, says: "As Singaporeans' interests become more diverse, it is important that People's Association and CCs find creative ways to meet them. Our CCs will continue to offer something for everyone through a wide variety of courses, activities and up-to-date facilities."

Some Singaporeans who usually shun CCs are drawn to the new offerings.

Mr Muhsin Rahman, 20, who is waiting to be called up for national service, is one example.

He lives two bus-stops away from Kaki Bukit CC, but goes there only about once a year. "I'm not really interested in the activities, but if CCs have such fancy facilities, I might just drop by to take a look," he says.


Where: Opposite Yishun MRT station, bounded by Yishun Avenue 2 and Yishun Central 1

When: Scheduled to open in 2018

This is the first community club to be built entirely within a mall and the first to be fully air-conditioned.

It will be linked to the bus interchange in Yishun Central, which will be fully air-conditioned when it is revamped.

The idea for the CC was conceived by Nee Soon Central MP Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who suggested that it be integrated with a new shopping centre to be built on the vacant land near Northpoint shopping mall, opposite Yishun MRT station.

The mall, which will see a condominium built above it, is being developed by Frasers Centrepoint.

The new CC will offer programmes that the People's Association says will "promote community and intergenerational bonding".


Where: Located at the site of the former Tampines Stadium and Sports Hall, which is bounded by Tampines Avenue 4, Tampines Avenue 5 and Tampines Street 82

When: Scheduled to open in 2016

When open, this giant lifestyle complex will contain Singapore's largest community club. The hub will occupy 5.7ha, about the size of seven football fields.

The CC, which will take up 8,000 sq m, will be integrated with facilities such as a performing arts theatre, five swimming pools, karaoke rooms, a futsal court, retail shops and food and beverage outlets.

The Tampines Regional Library, HDB Branch Office, Town Council office and North East Community Development Council office will also be relocated to this site.

About three million people are expected to visit the town hub every year, according to previous reports.


Where: 31 Woodlands Avenue 6

When: Opened last year

The community club has its own observatory, from which you can see planets such as Jupiter and Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula.

During special events, you can also see meteor showers.

The observatory has a telescope with an aperture of 30cm. It is the second-largest public telescope here after the one at Science Centre Singapore, which has an aperture of 40cm.

The observatory, which reportedly cost half a million dollars, is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from 7.30 to 9.30pm. It draws 20 to 60 people every weekend and is home to the CC's Galaxy Astronomy Club. Private visits can be arranged.

It costs $1 to enter the observatory. Members of the Galaxy Astronomy Club pay $10 (for PAssion card members) or $12 (for non-PAssion card members) annually and can enter the observatory free.


Where: 59 Anchorvale Road

When: New water activity centre opened this year

While the community club opened in 2008, the new water activity centre opened only in March.

It is the first CC with such a facility, which includes a pontoon at Punggol Reservoir from which kayaks and canoes can dock and launch.

Kayaking courses, mostly for adults, are organised by the CC and conducted on weekends.

The CC is looking to work with schools to conduct classes on weekdays.

The water activity centre has dedicated racing lanes for competitions, such as the Singapore Canoe Marathon.

Various dragon boat competitions have also been held there in partnership with the Singapore Dragon Boat Association.


Where: 101 Cantonment Road

When: Upgraded last year

The community club's art gallery has been expanded from 70 sq m to 159 sq m after the upgrading. Anyone can rent the gallery and put on artworks for sale or display.

A new childcare centre and food and beverage outlets were also added.

The CC, which is the only one in Singapore to offer finger-painting courses, also has its own kiln. So those taking pottery classes there can make and take home their creations.

In December last year, a group of artists held an art exhibition there to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. Participating artists included Cultural Medallion recipient Tan Kian Por and awardwinning Chinese ink artist Lim Kay Hiong.

International names such as Australian photographer Gordon Carlyle and artist Adrian Jugaru from Romania also took part.


Where: 101 Bukit Panjang Road

When: Opened in 2010

Fancy a dip in the pool? Head to this community club, whose walls feature cheerful murals of young people engaged in sports.

It has an eight-lane Olympic-size swimming pool and an infinity pool with a jacuzzi that can fit up to eight people. There is also a children's playground with water features.

At almost 7,000 sq m, the CC also offers sports facilities such as a sports hall, tennis and badminton courts and equipment for table tennis. The average size of CCs in Singapore ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 sq m.

The Senja-Cashew CC is connected via a link bridge to a multi-storey carpark that leads to Bukit Panjang Plaza.

Entrance fees to pools are $1.30 (weekdays) or $1.80 (weekends and public holidays) for PAssion card members; $1.50 (weekdays) or $2 (weekends and public holidays) for non-PAssion card members; $0.80 (weekdays) or $1 (weekends and public holidays) for children.

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