By Lisa Balschunat
Patience was the name of the game for bowling centers in New York state. Some 200 lanes statewide were given the green light from the governor’s office to reopen recently with strict COVID-19 requirements in place.
Doug Bohannon, owner of Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center in South Glens Falls and president of the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association, said many bowling centers within the association already had COVID-19 requirements in place because the original lift date for bowling centers was July 1.
“Needless to say, members of the association are thrilled to be back open. It was a long haul from March to now,” he said. “I know of two bowling centers that have closed permanently. Several others have not opened yet because they were waiting to see what the final requirements would be. Much changed between July 1 and Sept. 1.”
Kingpin’s Alley, Saratoga Strike Zone Bowling Center in Saratoga Springs and Broadway Lanes in Fort Edward are operating at 50 percent capacity. Leagues started up the week of Labor Day.
“We are very excited here at Saratoga Strike Zone to be open again,” said owner Rich Sheldon. “We’ve got 30 leagues starting up. We have all of the protocols in place: barriers between lanes, plexiglass at the desk, social distancing reminders, masks and staff temperature checks.”
He said the Saratoga Springs granted Strike Zone a variance to offer outdoor seating at its restaurant and the state’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped his establishment weather the coronavirus storm.
“Pre-COVID, I had 78 employees. During the shutdown I had to lay off everyone. Now all of my full-timers are back. I am extremely thankful for PPP … We still have a closed arcade and cannot host birthday parties, so we’re doing our best with what we have.”
September traditionally kicks off National Football League (NFL) events at Strike Zone. Sheldon said he is presently ironing out the details for NFL events games. The End Zone Sports Pub will be open and ready for the season.
“NFL games are a big part of our business on Sundays and will continue to be,” he said.
“Our corporate holiday party reservations obviously are down,” Sheldon said. “Hopefully in the future, if companies can’t host Christmas parties, maybe they can host a ‘Heck of a Year’ party in 2021,” he said.
The Special Olympics leagues that Kingpin’s Alley hosts on Saturdays were halted during the past six months and fundraisers like Bowl for Kids’ Sake, benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters, has been twice postponed. January to mid-March is its busy season.
“I want to let league and recreational bowlers know that it is safe to come back and bowl at KPA,” Bohannon said, “All the touch points are being cleaned and sanitized. We are operating at 50 percent, so there is more than six feet between each team of bowlers. We have masks, social distancing reminders and new sanitizing sprays.”
Bohannon and Sheldon agree that the one thing that never left the lanes due to COVID-19 is the fun.
“If you’re looking to get a bit of normalcy back into your life come back to the bowling centers. We’re open and ready for you … and we need your support,” said Bohannon.
By Lisa Balschunat