Web Special / November 2008

State of The Bowling Game

What is the true state of the bowling game today? The state of the game, in financial terms, would render conflicting answers, depending on whom you question.

USBC membership continues to decline, yet recreation bowling is on the rise. Numerous proprietors are profitting from glow bowling, birthday parties, and other type catering services that keep the registers clicking.

Nonetheless, older bowling centers continue to close, some from declining business or, in numerous cases, land values have become so lucrative that proprietors prefer to accept offers they can't refuse. This is primarily prevalent in states like California, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and Florida, plus other areas.

Nonetheless, bowling centers in Las Vegas and in the Phoenix are prospering. Las Vegas is easily the bowling capital of the world and features some of the country's largest and most elegant bowling facilities. During the past several years, Las Vegas presented the game with the plushiest bowling center in the world, Red Rock Lanes, a facility that was erected at a cost of approximately $30 million. Suffice to say, it is paying itself off with monthly incomes in excess of $300,000.

Additionally, the greater Phoenix area features over 30 successful bowling centers, possibly more than that of many states.

What do these cities have that others lack? I'm sure it can't be attributed to a lack of other recreational activities in these two areas. For example, Las Vegas offers more favorable recreational opportunities than any city in the world—warm weather, golf courses, sports events, casinos, live entertainment, lakes, and practically anything other than winter-related sports.

Phoenix, the sixth largest city in the USA, can boast of professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey teams, as well as leading college sports teams. Equally important, Phoenix features a slew of some of the country's greatest golf courses.

Nevertheless, for the less fortunate proprietors who are barely holding on, there's a bright light looming at the end of the tunnel. To recover some of the lost membership in the USBC, bowling has to begin at the grassroots level.

So where is the most opportune area for this development to take fruition? Of course, in high schools, the training ground for all sports…baseball, football, basketball, and track. And how does bowling fare against other high school sports? Very well, thank you. According to the National Federation of State High School Association's survey, bowling was the largest-growing high school sport in the 2007-08 school year, continuing a decade-long trend.

More than 52,000 students competed at the 4,656 schools offering high school bowling competition in 2007-08, a 16 percent increase over the previous year.

Perhaps the addition of freshman teams could further increase the numbers in high school bowling programs.

Participating states offer varsity bowling for boys and girls, guiding all levels of high school bowling, providing rules and instructional opportunities. USBC High School offers a free membership program, which enables coaches to nominate outstanding bowlers to the national Dexter/USBC High School All-American Team, and provides high-score recognition to student-athletes. Coaches also receive resource materials such as USBC Coaches Guidebook and USBC High School Guide.

Bowling not only offers inexpensive start-up and maintenance costs but also allows students an opportunity to get involved with their schools. Size, height, and brawn are inconsequential. The smallest boy or girl can be just as successful at bowling as seven-foot basketball players, football behemoths, track speedsters, or any other type athletes that require inordinate size or brawn. Additionally, bowling lays the foundation for a lifetime sport and helps athletes earn scholarships to an abundance of colleges featuring big-time bowling programs.

USBC, as the national governing body, ensures the integrity and protects the future of the sport as it continues to increase in numbers, year after year.

Most assuredly, the yearly increase in high school bowling participation can only serve to insure a bright future for the sport of bowling and, consequentially, a financial boom for bowling proprietors.