The Hamilton Croatian Centre, referred to by most as “The Centre”, was created to promote, preserve and foster Croatian culture and heritage, and to unite its members through activities and events.
The land located at 166 Green Mountain Road East was purchased for $5000 from a farmer in 1953 but it was not legally transferred until 1972 when construction on the building began. Founding members included Joe Kovacic and Nick Spoljar.
Much like the Sports Club, most of the work that was put into the Centre was done on a voluntary basis. Renovations to the building, management of the park, and general supervision of business and affairs was done by willing and elected members.
Since the beginning, The Centre was a place that promoted the study of Croatian music and dance, and more specifically, the art of tamburitza music.
It was always regarded as a place where members could go to picnics and events and never get caught up in political or religious controversy.
With an abundance of land, options for hall expansion and the addition of different amenities always came to consideration — and some would come to fruition.
The bocce area was built by a group of member-volunteers that included Marinko Dragusica and Zdravko Grubisic. Two perfectly crafted courts in use practically every night helped sustain an athletic youthfulness in some of the older members. Also revered for the cookhouse, nothing could beat waking up on a Sunday morning and smelling the freshly cut lamb and pig that was roasted on one of the 36 spits.
In May of 2007, executive members of the Centre approached the Croatian National Sports Club with a request to negotiate a merger between the two organizations.
After each organization had asked their respective memberships for permission to engage in serious negotiation talks in early 2008, a letter was sent out to explain that a deal had been reached and Emergency General Meetings had been called on both fronts to disclose a complete set of merger plans, a budget, and many other crucial pieces of information.
“We are pleased to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached between the Croatian National Sports Club of Hamilton and the Hamilton Croatian Centre to merge as one organization. The Executive Committee would like to invite all the members of the Sports Club to a very important and potentially historic meeting at The Club on 200 Kenilworth Avenue North, on Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 2 p.m.”
At the meeting, members were asked to view the presentation, look over the new by-laws, and then cast their votes. The sense of perception was positive, but once the ballots were counted anticipation turned to jubilation.
Voting at the Centre’s meeting had passed with 100% approval, and at the Club with 98.2%. One comment from a Croatia Hamilton member following the merger meeting summed it all up — “This is the best solution for all Croatians in Hamilton.”