Bowling Rolls Into New Venues

Dan MacLelland competes in the Professional Bowlers Association, which began its 55th season in November. The tour has seen its ups and downs but is expanding its events for the coming season.

By Greg Mellen

Ever since Rip Van Winkle awoke to the “sound of crashing nine pins” in Washington Irving’s 1819 tale, bowling has been a popular part of the American sporting culture. And while the number of competitive league bowlers has declined in recent decades, the sport of bowling still remains a vibrant activity in America, with a new wave of participatory interest as a chic form of recreation, and it continues to grow in popularity internationally.

Hosting one of bowling’s more prestigious events can be a boon to cities, vendors and sponsors. In recent years, events have been hosted in creative locations—from convention center ballrooms to metropolitan train stations—generating an interest from cities that lack traditional bowling alleys. “We’re the largest participation sport in the country,” said Stu Upson, executive director of the U.S. Bowling Congress.
When an organization such as the USBC rolls into town for one of its tournaments, it’s big business. Such an event can be a financial windfall for host cities, bringing in as many as 80,000 competitors over the course of several months and having an economic impact of upwards of $100 million. The annual Open Championships, the biggest event on the organization’s calendar, can command about 100,000 square feet of convention center space for four to six months, attracts at least 10,000 teams and is the talk of the town.

For Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which hosted the 2012 USBC Open, the event resulted in an economic impact of an estimated $113 million, said Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge. “We were very pleased with the outcome,” Arrigo said. “We’re anxious to host again.”

Reno, Nevada, which built its 78-lane National Bowling Stadium solely for competitive bowling, is scheduled to host the Open in 2013 for the eighth time since the facility opened in 1995. According to Chris Baum, president and CEO of Reno-Tahoe USA, an estimated 100,000 hotel room nights next year will be booked in conjunction with the tournament. “For a city of 400,000, that is a pretty incredible thing,” Baum said.

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