The first day of bowling got decidedly different reactions from different bowling centers.
At Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center in South Glens Falls, owner Doug Bohannon was glad to reopen Monday after being shut down due to the pandemic for five months.
“We’re expecting a decent turnout,” he said just before the center opened for the day. “League players — it’s the first time in five months that they’ve been able to play.”
He’s using only 21 of his 42 lanes, with every other lane blocked off for social distancing. But he is making plans to create physical barriers between players so that he could open every lane.
“We don’t have them in the bowling area yet. It’s something we’re seriously considering doing,” he said. “The final guidance came out yesterday (and said) if we have a physical barrier between the lanes, we can use all the lanes.”
But that was news at Broadway Lanes in Fort Edward.
Owner Brandon Bickford thought he would only be able to use half his lanes, and he has already gotten complaints from bowling leagues about the rules. He said the rules must be changed before leagues begin playing this fall.
“We just need to be able to use both lanes,” he said.
League bowlers typically complete in groups of two teams, bowling side by side on two lanes. He could easily set up something to separate the teams so that both lanes could be used, but he said that wouldn’t satisfy league players.
Some bowlers are also not happy by the state’s requirement that everyone wear masks while playing.
“We’re talking to our league bowlers. Some of them don’t want to bowl with their mask on,” he said. “Who’s gotta be the police on that, us? Lucky us.”
The rules will work for now, for open bowling, but he can’t live with them next month.
“I appreciate everything everyone did. A lot of people went to a lot of trouble to get these bowling alleys open,” he said. “But it’s going to be really hard to run with these restrictions. I’m just hoping someone gets through to them.”
Bohannon is also hoping rules loosen after awhile.
“We think if the numbers continue trending down, restrictions will be loosened,” he said.
In other states, bowling center owners have reported losing league players because they can’t play side by side, he said.
But he added that the bigger question is whether bowlers feel safe.
“We’ve seen reports of revenue numbers, but they’re going to be down no matter what because of COVID,” he said. “People are still uncomfortable.”
So he’s going to try to control what he can: the separation between lanes.
“Leagues typically bowl on two lanes, side by side. If they can’t, it’s going to hurt me,” he said. “You might lose the bowler for the season. They might not bother.”