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Summer ideas aim to keep centers on roll

By PHILIP GULICK
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 9, 2002

Youth camps, Sport Bowling and Glo-bowl are some of the features players will enjoy at the 13 Pinellas County centers this summer.

The busy winter season, bread-and-butter leagues for area proprietors, ends this month and won't return until September.

Until then, centers must provide new programs to retain some winter bowlers and attract new ones. Proprietors must have done so early in the year.

"You can't sit on your hands all winter long and expect bowlers to crowd through your doors in the summer without promoting new ideas and formats," said Bobbie Stealy, owner of Twedt's and Ten Pin lanes.

The county's large, active senior citizen population has been a boon for the sport.

Many bowl year around, such as the competitors in the Florida Senior Stars men's and women's leagues. The seniors help fill centers after winter players stash their equipment and take up summer activities.

AMF Clearwater Lanes manager Elaine Wilhelm got a pleasant surprise from corporate headquarters.

"We knew we would be getting new lanes to replace our old wooden ones, and I thought they would be the HPL Alliance Lanes," Wilhelm said. "But we are getting the newer Xtreme HPL Glow Track Lanes instead." HPL stands for high pressure lanes, and the center's wooden approaches will remain.

Wilhelm said the new lanes will be installed in August without loss of league action. She plans a "retro bowl" feature that will say so long to the area's last wooden lanes. AMF Kenneth City Lanes manager Tom Milton offers a kids summer camp on Thursdays at noon, plus the regular YABA leagues on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sport Bowling, introduced by Mike White last season, is having a summer league, and the popular Callaghan Scratch League continues.

"We had a very good winter season with an increase in league play, and our summer is shaping up very well, too," Milton said.

Sport Bowling is the new ABC program that offers tougher lane conditions than the usual league shot and calls for greater accuracy. "We had a great winter season, and our summer is looking good," said Countryside Lanes' Deborah Briggs, who became the manager in November.

"We will have a mixed or single-gender doubles league with a PBA-style format starting Thursday," she said.

The center is home to the Junior Olympic Gold Winter Youth Leagues led by Bill and Cheryl Bedford. They are offering the Junior Scratch Classic Wednesday Night League with college scholarship money on the line.

Glo-bowl -- with blacklight, smoke and music -- continues to attract adults and youngsters on weekends at many of the centers, including Twedt's and Ten Pin lanes.

"Our winter business was up again and so is our summer," Stealy said. "We wonder sometimes when the bubble will burst because each year our business is a little bit better than the last."

Both centers will have new Qubica automatic bumpers installed, as Stealy continues to upgrade operations. A new Friday handicap match-play league begins at Ten Pin this summer, and Glo-bowl rolls on Friday nights.

"Really, the only open bowling spots left are on Saturday nights," Stealy said.

Tarpon Lanes' winter season was "quite good," owner Tracey Smith said.

"We're offering a variety of options for our summer bowlers," Smith said.

"We do have room for improvement this summer, however, and I take with a grain of salt anyone who tells me their summer attendance is spectacular. I have to look at the second-night shifts to gauge whether a season is good or not."

Tarpon offers a strong youth program, with Saturday morning YABA competition, Generation Gap youthadult leagues and a heavy influx of summer school and day-care youngsters. Lane rental programs have become popular, catering to special groups and parties.

Seminole and Sunrise lanes and Sunshine Bowl, owned and operated by Jerry and Kevin Krauss, continue to do well.

"League play was up from last season, and open bowling is doing especially well," Kevin said.

"We drew 20 teams for our first Sport Bowling league, and that's great," he said. "And we installed 30 lanes of automatic bumpers at Seminole to accommodate our growing youth leagues."

After Sept. 11 last year, league and open play were down, Krauss said. But gradually they increased.

"I think it's because families were staying at home more, looking for family activities, and bowling fits that perfectly," Krauss said.

With 60 lanes, the Seminole house is the county's largest. It will play host to the Brunswick World Team Challenge's second stop in September.

The winter play at Southland Lanes was "great," J.R. Sarley said, "but we're having a typical summer -- few daytime leagues."

The 24-lane center tucked behind Sarley's real money-maker, Southland Roller Palace in Pinellas Park, is doing good business, though, with day-care and YABA. AROUND THE LANES: Jack Scandaglia rolled a 300-827 at Liberty Lanes. Kerry Harris, Charles Bucker, and Steve and Rich Adams won the center's Almost Midnight Tournament and split $1,000. ... Keith Davidson fired a 299-777 at Countryside Lanes. ... Dozens of competitors will be in the Florida State YABA Tournament on Saturday-June 16 in Ocala.

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