S'pore Recreation Club offered lease renewal for Padang site but members divided on proposed levy they must pay

The lease for the land the SRC is on expires on July 11, 2024, but SLA is offering the club a 30-year extension for $18.4 million.
The lease for the land the SRC is on expires on July 11, 2024, but SLA is offering the club a 30-year extension for $18.4 million.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Recreation Club (SRC), which has been at the Padang since 1884, will continue to remain there for the next 30 years if its members can raise $18.4 million for the lease.

The lease for the land in Connaught Drive, where the clubhouse is located, is due to expire on July 11, 2024.

But the Singapore Land Authority (SLA)has offered SRC a 30-year extension for a sum of $18,404,070.

In a circular to club members seen by The Straits Times, SRC president Sarbjit Singh said this amount is based on the valuation of its sports and recreation space of 5,631 sq m and commercial space of 2,176 sq m, as well as goods and services tax and the certificates of title.

To raise the sum, a spokesman for SRC told ST that it intends to let members vote to opt in on a levy amount of $6,700 for ordinary, women and corporate members. The levy for members aged 80 and above is $2,680 for a membership term of 10 years.

The amount was derived from an assumption that "30 per cent of 3,000 forecasted members may not opt in". The funds will also go towards operational expenses “related to the lease renewal”.

The club has more than 7,200 active members.

For members who do not want to pay the levy, or do not respond by Nov 12 this year, SRC said their memberships will cease when the lease ends in 2024.

This proposal will be put to a vote from Thursday (Sept 30) to Saturday next week.

SRC has to accept SLA's offer by Nov 19 this year.

The spokesman for SRC said: "Those who are against this amount want the club to tap into its reserves to fund the lease renewal."

Dr Singh told ST that the amount it hopes to collect from members was decided so that SRC would not have to "disturb its reserves".

"The club's building is now 27 years old and the infrastructure needs upgrading. Our lifts are getting old and tend to break down, the air-conditioning system and our changing rooms need to be upgraded. This can cost up to $5.5 million," he said.

The club's reserves of $13.8 million should be put towards its upgrading costs, he said, adding that the club sees an annual operating deficit and expenditure of about $1.2 million.

ST spoke to some members who are unhappy about the levy amount.

Dr Han Kit Kwong, 62, a dentist in private practice, said he started a petition and has collected about 300 signatures in protest against the levy amount.

“Why didn’t SRC consult members first? Why are they punishing our present members by asking them to pay up an exorbitant amount? We propose that the levy should be brought down to $2,500,” he said.

“There are other ways to raise funds. For example, SRC can create more memberships to sell when the lease is renewed. In the meantime, they can top up the amount from their reserves.”

Business owner Chang Yeh Hong, 61, said he signed the petition as he felt frustrated that the club did not let members have a say in the levy amount.

“SRC should have a detailed discussion with us. We’re not a proprietary club - we’re a members’ club, so we should have a say."

However, retired businessman David Tan, 71, who has been a member of the club since 1990, said he thought the $6,700 amount is reasonable.

"That's about $18 a month (over 30 years). Considering the club is quite old and the facilities need to be maintained, we should keep the reserves for these purposes. I don't mind paying the levy," he said.

"From a retiree's point of view, it's quite a lot of money to have to cough up in a lump sum. But I use the gym here almost every day, so I think it's worth it."

The monthly subscription fee for ordinary members is $85 before GST. The membership price for ordinary members - which is market-driven - is currently around $5,000.

Mr Jason Lim, 64, a trading representative, said that the levy was steep for him, but he is willing to fork out the amount for the club to stay on.

The club began as the Straits Cricket Club in 1880 and was established as SRC in 1883.

Said Mr Lim: "The amount is on the high side, but I know the club wants to err on the side of caution. Some members are unhappy with the levy amount, but we all have the same goal - for SRC to renew its lease.

"However, the management committee (MC) should tell us what they will do if there's an excess in funds collected - if it could be returned to members or spent on renovation and upgrading works," he said, adding that he has been a member for six years.

Dr Singh said that if there is an excess, the MC will consult members and decide on how it will be used, such as going towards upgrading costs. Members who voted to opt in can also be rewarded in the form of food and beverage credits.

"SLA gave us a very fair and reasonable price. I see it as my duty to ensure the land lease is renewed as SRC has a rich history at the Padang," he said.

"My main concern is that if the offer is withdrawn, we don't know what SLA's next offer will be."

The lease for the Singapore Cricket Club, which sits at the opposite end of the Padang, will expire in 2026.

The club, which was established in 1852, said in its newsletter in May that it has started talks with SLA on a lease renewal.