By Travis Stahl
for IN|Whitley County
COLUMBIA CITY — Despite participation in bowling leagues dwindling, people continue to fill the alleys across Indiana.
“League participation is down,” said Main Bowl manager Jeremy Bentz. “But open bowl is still really decent.”
Bowling remains a vital life sport for people of all ages for many reasons. Bowling doesn’t require a person to own specialized equipment, as alleys provide bowling balls and shoes. No experience is required to bowl, as anybody from the age of 3 or 4 and older can step on to the lane at any time. And perhaps the biggest factor that has kept bowling a key past time for many people is that it is affordable – although it’s not like that everywhere in the U.S.
“I lived in Florida and bowled with some of my friends for about three hours and it was $300,” said Bentz. “Here that would have been $30.”
Most bowling alleys like Main Bowl still host several leagues that play every week throughout the winter. And, while bowling isn’t a sanctioned sport by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, several schools now have bowling teams. So many, in fact, that the Indiana High School Bowling group puts on a state tournament every year.
Getting younger bowlers involved in the sport at the school level has carried over to something bowlers continue to do even after graduation.
Mary Utley is currently the president for the Woman’s Bowling Association and the Bowling Association in Indiana. Utley said alleys across the state are seeing the same trend as Main Bowl. Utley said the number of sanctioned bowlers has decreased but open bowl at most places is way up.
“There’s no age limit,” said Utley of the appeal of bowling. “As people get older, they realize they can continue to bowl.”
While other activities are keeping people from joining bowling leagues they are not stopping people from participating in the sport. Bowling is still thriving at lanes across Indiana. People can’t play football or baseball by themselves or with their families and tennis and golf often take years to become good at. But bowling has remained an activity the whole family can take part in at a minimal cost.