June 10, 2020 — “It feels normal now. All the doors are open, the lights are on and the same faces are coming in and going bowling,” Holiday Bowl manager Dusty Anderson said. “I’m glad we’re back.”
After three months of being closed due to the pandemic, the bowling center opened its doors on Friday.
“Saturday was one of the best days of the year,” Anderson said. We had 30 people in here, not all at once — We were able to keep bowling etiquette. For us to do $300 in open play, that’s pretty good, especially in the summer.”
While multiple businesses have been required to make some drastic changes for safety measures, very little has changed at Holiday Bowl aside from some seating arrangements in the common area.
“Nothing is really changing in bowling centers anywhere, not just here,” Anderson said. “Because that’s what they do every day, they make sure the place is clean before they open and when they close. It’s just something we do as bowling centers, it’s not just us.”
Anderson explained that social distancing is a traditional component of bowling center etiquette.
“We never put a group next to each other out on the lanes unless we absolutely have to. They are usually one full lane apart, always. We don’t put them on lane six or eight because we just don’t do that. They call it social distancing — we call it bowling etiquette.”
Anderson stated that sanitation has always been a big component of bowling, from the shoes that are given out to the bowling balls themselves.
“The only difference is we have hand sanitizers out on the lanes. We have sterilized wipes we give to bowlers if they want to wipe the balls down,” Anderson said. “We sterilize everything every day and every night. It’s just business as usual, as far as I’m concerned.”
And business as usual also means the return of comradery and exercise that the sport offers.
“It’s a social game,” Anderson said. “You don’t have to be good at it to have fun. That’s what bumpers are for,” he said with a laugh. “Our biggest thing is socialization. It’s more socializing as you exercise than being out on the street by yourself.”
To prove his point, Anderson yelled out “Hey Roger!” to one of the players, a 90-year-old regular who had just broken 100. He came over to chat with Anderson, joking about being rusty after the three-month break. Soon after the conversation, Roger rolled a strike while laughter and cheers could be heard.
When the pandemic first hit, Holiday Bowl was in the middle of league play. The shutdown still hadn’t taken effect yet. Instead, there was a patchwork of regulations coming from the state, including cleaning recommendations and suggested limits on crowds.
“It was hectic around here,” Anderson said. “On a Monday night, we all got together and decided how we were going to run the leagues when they decided we couldn’t have more than 25 people in here. We had it all figured out. But by that Tuesday, we had to shut all our leagues down.”
And soon after, the center itself closed.
“As a professional, it was probably the right thing to do,” Anderson said. “In the much larger houses, it’s hard to control. They’re hectic. They’re not going to put people away from them so they’re not bothering each other.”
But at a smaller center like Holiday Bowl, Anderson has more control over social distancing.
“We’ve been doing this for years. It’s not really new for us, for somebody to wipe down the counters when bowling is done,” Anderson said.
It was a Sunday morning, and the lanes were relatively quiet. Just two lanes were being played on. But Anderson said it’s typical for summer.
“Nobody does indoor stuff during the summer, and none of our bowlers practice in the summer,” Anderson said
Seniors make the majority of players at Holiday Bowl during the summer, when they typically hold the annual grandparents tournament. Despite the risks that COVID-19 poses for the population, Anderson stated that the summer senior clientele have been wanting to get back into the swing ever since the center first closed.
“They’ve been calling for months trying to get back in here and bowl, but they’re the ones at high risk” Anderson said. “People know that they’re going to come to a bowling alley at their own risk, just like a movie theater or baseball game. We had bowlers here yesterday that we offered sanitation wipes to, and they said they didn’t want it. ‘We know what we’re getting ourselves into here’ they said.”
One of the best reasons to bowl, particularly for seniors, is the exercise that it affords.
“Every three games you bowl is like walking a mile out on the street,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot more physical because you’re using different muscles. It’s a really great way to exercise and you don’t have to be good at it. It’s fun.”
And it creates an opportunity for people to socialize in a controlled and sanitized environment.
“If you come out and join a league, you meet a lot of new people,” Anderson said. “A different type of people than probably what you’re used to hanging out with.”
While the tournaments have been cancelled for the summer, Anderson hopes that by September regulations will allow them to come back.
“In the fall, it’s going to be full tilt leagues coming back. With the leagues ending so soon, we never did have a chance to do our advertising for summer,” he said. “It’s going to be hit or miss on how many people come back to bowl.”
But in the meantime, Anderson hopes that people will take the time to discover the benefits of bowling.
“I think it’s the greatest little bowling alley around for its size,” he said. “We’ve got everything in here for you to do. We’ve got the pool tables, video games and bowling. … Just come out and go bowling. Figure out what it’s like. If you’ve never bowled, give it a shot.”