See Jim Gaffin’s take…
Is bowling a sport, recreation or business? Yes! By Mark Miller
Republished courtesy of Examiner.com (July 16, 2010)
The age-old question of whether bowling is a sport, recreation or business may finally have been definitively answered June 27-July 1 at International Bowl Expo 2010 in Las Vegas.
Pro bowler Sean Rash (left) was part of the mix of sport and business at International Bowl Expo. Photo Mark Miller
After years of arguing that it had to be one or the other, it was apparent to the thousands in attendance that bowling indeed is all of them together. And that seemed okay to the many experts there.
“We promote bowling as a sport, entertainment and business,” Brunswick President of Bowling Products Brent Perrier told the Bowling Writers’ Association of America. “It’s all three.”
While it’s clear bowling is a sport at the Professional Bowlers Association, collegiate, high school and Junior Gold levels, the line becomes a bit foggy beyond that. Even league bowlers associated with the United States Bowling Congress consider themselves to be recreational as often as competitive.
“The sport of bowling is evolving, spreading out if you will,” USBC Managing Director of Media Pete Tredwell said during a BWAA panel discussion where the question was asked if bowling is becoming more entertainment than sport. “The purest level is PBA which is separating from the league and recreational base.”
“If you want to be a successful sport on TV, it has to be entertaining,” said Professional Bowlers Association Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Tom Clark. “A taped series, a made for TV event, is that a sport? The Chris Paul event was a made-for-TV event but they were playing our sport.”
“We as bowlers are sensitive to anything that we think demeans our sport,” said Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter and bowling columnist Jeff Wolf. “We get sensitive because we are slighted so often.”
“To me, sport is entertainment,” said Bowlers Journal Executive Editor Jim Dressel.
So with all the talk about the sport, recreation and business of bowling all being good, where does the industry go from here? At Strike Zone at Sunset Station in Henderson, Nev., it’s a little bit of everything.
“Our property is so big we can do both the sport and recreation of bowling,” said Jim Welch, general manager of the 72-lane facility. “We can have a birthday party on one end and a tournament on the other. Sometimes we’ve done the ultimate multitasking. We’ll have five different events going at the same time.”
That’s a good mix according to retired USBC Chief Executive Officer and author Roger Dalkin who said he noticed a subtle move toward more entertainment-based exhibitors at the Bowl Expo Trade Show.
“The industry has to be careful that it doesn’t go too much entertainment because then you are dealing with people who go on a whim,” Dalkin said. “Look at the Main Event places in Texas. They never had a league when they opened and now they are starting to look for leagues.”
As Disney’s Mike Reardon said in the Disney Institute‘s Approach to Business Excellence seminar, people no longer are coming to bowling centers just to bowl.
“Walt Disney told us, and it’s still true today that recreation and entertainment are not luxuries in this society or people will go nuts,” Reardon said. “Look for ways to expand what you already do and who you are.”
By that definition, centers that combine the sport, recreation and business of bowling should be able succeed quite well.