To some bowling is a sport. It is an organized physical activity with membership, teams, rules and regulations, tournaments, and awards. To others it is merely a recreational activity to partake in with family and friends. It is a time to order up pitchers of soda and watch people laugh and have fun as the alley dances with the fluorescents of Extreme Bowling. Whatever stance you take on the subject, the fact of it is that bowling is a great American pastime for many. The sad truth of the matter however, is that bowling is a dying activity.
According to the United States Bowling Congress, during the 1996-1997 season, there were nearly 4.5 million league bowlers in the United States. Recent statistics from the USBC 2009 show that number down to 2.3 million, nearly half of what it was ten years ago.
The decrease of popularity has come from many factors including sky-rocketing prices, constant alley closures, and the Wii’s multiple bowling games.
The prices of bowling alleys have increased drastically in the past several years with prices now ranging from $3-$9 per game or $10-$20 per lane per hour. That’s without the price of shoes, which are typically in the $3-$6 per-pair range. If you fancy a game of Extreme Bowling, plan on shelling out more than $30 to play.
“I enjoy bowling and have liked playing since I was a kid. I like taking my kids to bowl as a treat but the prices are so high it’s hard to do it very much,” said avid bowler Jake Allen. With the prices climbing so high, bowling alleys are starting to see tumbleweeds instead of dollars, forcing many to go out of business. At the height of the bowling era in the mid 1960’s there were over 12,000 bowling centers. Now there are less than 5,500. The closures have been effecting Anchorage as well as the rest of the US. With the recent closure of Park Lanes, venues for bowling in Anchorage have become even scarcer. Jewel Lake Bowling and Center Bowl are some of the few alleys still left, but they can be a long way away for some people. Adding the cost of travel to get to a bowling alley, as well as the cost of bowling, people just aren’t willing to do it any longer. Shandra Olsen is in a league and heads to the alley every week, “I carpool with people on my team which helps a little with gas prices.”
Some people have come up with a different solution to the costly commute. Why head off to an alley miles away, when you can bowl in the comfort of your own home. Wii bowling is free, minus the cost of the playing console and the game and has been gaining popularity in years. You can play as many games as you want, take as long as you want to bowl, and young children can play without the need of bumper lanes. But some don’t feel that it gives the
challenge of real bowling.
“It’s too easy to figure out how exactly to swing the remote to get the ball to do exactly what you want, my six year old son can do it. With real bowling it takes real skill and concentration to get strikes,” said UAA student Amy Lessenger.
Wii bowling is just not the same as putting on those stinky well-used shoes, grabbing a heavy, albeit slightly cracked, ball, and hurling it down a lane in anticipation of the loud crash of pins scattering to the ground. Bowling is starting to die out, but the faithful fans will hopefully keep this activity and sport going long enough that it won’t completely fade away from our society