Norwich, Conn. —
Owners of a Norwich bowling alley plan to be on their best behavior this year as the Professional Bowlers Association plays out the final string on a three-year contract.
Ken Fontaine and Bob Larsen, operators of the Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center, said they hope to announce an agreement with the PBA later this month for extending the tournament beyond this year’s event, which begins March 17. The 2010 Go RVing Match Play Championship will be the third annual held at the Norwichtown facility.
“We’re looking to go the extra mile,” Larsen said during a kickoff press conference at the bowling alley Tuesday afternoon.
Even though Norwich Bowling has to pay the tour $27,500 to host the tournament and the alley loses about a week of business, the owners and community leaders want to keep the event.
“It’s a wonderful thing for our city,” Alderman Deb Hinchey said from the audience during the conference. “It’s something that makes us proud.”
At 32 lanes, Norwich Bowling is the smallest house on the PBA tour. But what the alley lacks in size it makes for up in personal service, organizers said.
Norwich Board of Education Chairman Charles Jaskiewicz and wife Patrice will again head of the volunteers committee. The couple expects to be supervising 168 workers.
Charles Jaskiewicz sees the bowling event and the expansion of Kelly Middle School’s auditorium as venues for widely promoting Norwich and Eastern Connecticut while boosting business at local taverns, restaurants, and hotels during the tourney. Fontaine and Larsen say the tourney has a positive carryover, increasing interest in bowling.
The March 21 final will be shown live on the ESPN cable sports channel. Last year’s final had a U.S. audience of about 1 million, Fontaine said.
Interest is building in the March 17-21 tournament with spots in the pro-am portion expected to sell out for the first time this year, Fontaine said.
Unique features to this year’s tournament, which offers a first prize of $25,000, include seven spots reserved for local bowlers in the field of 64 and a bracket system similar to that used in the NCAA college basketball tournaments. Two different oil patterns will be used on the lanes, increasing the degree of difficulty.
The tournament also begins on St. Patrick’s Day, creating more opportunities for collaborations with bars and in the center’s own kitchen.
“Yes, if you were wondering, the green beer will be here,” Jaskiewicz said.