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Reports of bowling’s demise greatly exaggerated

A bowler takes a break at Discovery Ventura.
A bowler takes a break at Discovery Ventura.
Fred Eisenhammer

There was a touching story recently on daily-journal.com about Herscher High School in Illinois trying to save its bowling program.

The story’s headline screamed out: “Is bowling really dying?” and the article goes over all of bowling’s often-repeated declining numbers.

A Herscher High mom named Cheri Thomas talks about how she treasured her years on the school’s bowling team and she doesn’t want her teen-aged daughter to be denied those same exhilarating moments.

The story’s reporter writes: “While Cheri faces an uphill fight – hoping to raise the $8,000 required for lane rentals and transportation – it’s nothing compared to the sport's overall struggle for survival.”

The story supports its thesis with a Bloomberg Businessweek report that shows that 25 percent of U.S. bowling centers have closed from 1998 to 2012.

And here’s the biggest shocker: The White House is planning to close its two lanes that were installed in 1947 as a birthday gift to President Harry Truman.

But the fact is that the news isn’t grim at all.

Bowling appears to be making a resurgence, even though it’s primarily the casual bowler that is helping to fuel the comeback.

Still, tournaments catering to the serious bowler are everywhere and that’s a sign that many bowlers still find meaning to high scores.

Tournament director Tony Hubert of Kankakee, Ill., put it well in the daily-journal story when he said, “Bowling is not the big mainstream sport that it was in the 1950s, even into the ’80s.

“Now, bowling is more about cosmic bowling, parties and the leisurely bowler. But there are some of us who are creating tournaments and new league ideas and trying to build interest in the sport again.”

Where is bowling the strongest in the country? The story cites South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. And the weakest states? California, Nevada and Hawaii.

Still, California boasts thriving pockets of bowling. In the city of Ventura, for instance, two bowling centers co-exist. Tournament-friendly Buena Lanes brings in the tournament receipts but cross-town rival Discovery Ventura (with its in-house diner) attracts throngs of young adults with its nine lanes, which reset with dancing pins.

Discovery Ventura, incidentally, is so popular that it charges $30 an hour for Friday and Saturday night play.

But in a show of the game’s overall strength, Discovery Ventura is launching league play on Wednesday nights.

Nope, bowling is decidedly not dead . . . or dying.