After ‘Long Wait,’ Bowling is Back in Washington

by Bob Johnson 0

READ GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE'S BOWLING MEMO HERE

READ WASHINGTON STATE'S COVID-19 BOWLING GUIDANCE

At long last, the bowling industry in the state of Washington is being allowed to welcome back customers.

“It has been a long wait,” said Greg Olsen, Executive Director of the Washington State Bowling Proprietors’ Association. “The waiting is now over.”

Effective immediately, bowling centers will be permitted to re-open as a “Phase Two” business, on a county-by-county basis as regulated by local Departments of Health.

Following CDC and Washington State COVID-19 protocols, bowling centers are opening with strict health and sanitizing procedures in place for employees and guests.

Masks must be worn at all times — without exception — and 6-ft. social distancing must be maintained everywhere in a center. Additional protocols will be in place to comply with all mandated requirements.

The most noticeable changes will be a limit of two bowlers per lane, restrictions on movement inside the centers, and no spectators allowed.

Each center will share the re-opening steps being taken on its website, through social media, and with signage throughout the venue.

“It’s temporary — for now,” Olsen added. “But it does signal the start of the ‘2020-2021 COVID-19 bowling season,’ a season none of us will ever forget.”

FAQ: The Reopening of Centers in Washington
The Washington State BPA released this helpful FAQ list regarding the reopening of centers in the state, and what it will take to keep them open. It also could help provide a roadmap of sorts for proprietors in other states who are still awaiting the green light to reopen.

Q: Bowling has been allowed to re-open under Phase 2 and Phase 3 guidelines. What does this mean for my local bowling center?

A: Provided the county your bowling center is located within has been designated into Phases 2 or 3, your local bowling center is able to re-open immediately (effective Thursday, August 20, 2020). Only those counties in Phase 1, due to high COVID-19 cases, will not be permitted to re-open their local centers.

Q: Bowling is being restricted to two bowlers per lane. Why only two people and how will this affect my team of trios, fours or fives?

A: Although no bowling center is delighted with the two-bowler limitation per lane, the Governor’s ruling helps us “Bring Back Bowling” NOW, during a critical time as leagues statewide begin to form.

Yes, teams will be restricted to two per lane. Teams of fours will be allowed to bowl together. They will simply roll two per lane. Your opponents will be on two adjoining lanes. Different? Absolutely. Workable? Yes.

Teams traditionally bowling as trios or fives will be required to downsize into doubles for this season. We hope just temporarily. But possibly for the entire 2020-21 season depending on progress to curb the spread of the disease.

Q: What about practice?

A: Yes, practice will be allowed. In fact, non-traditional league players, such as families and friends, will be invited to bowl and to “practice” during designated time periods, by reservation.

These “practice” sessions may entice a family or group of friends to take up bowling in a club or league format at some time in the future. You may also use these “practice times” to work on your game, try new equipment, or meet with friends (two per lane) during the 2020-21 bowling season.

Q: No spectators will be allowed in Phases 2 and 3. Why this restriction? I often like to bring a family member or friend with me when I bowl.

A: The Governor and Department of Health officials have consistently sought to limit the size of gatherings — in confined indoor spaces, primarily. Temporarily, banning spectators won’t be ideal, but it gets our sport back open.

Your friend or family member may join you and, depending on their age, may wait and enjoy a meal in your local center’s restaurant or lounge.

We are seeking further clarification regarding parents attending with their son or daughter’s youth league, as well as supervisors assisting special-needs bowlers. We hope to have those answers shortly.

Q: Bowlers must maintain 6-ft. social distancing both while on the lanes and in all other areas of the bowling center. Why?

A: We’re all used to 6-ft. social distancing. It must be maintained in your local bowling center as well. Decals will be affixed to the flooring in your center. You are asked to limit movement during your visit to a center, remaining at your assigned lanes. Breaks to restrooms, control counters and food operations are permitted, but please, temporarily, refrain from walking lane to lane to visit friends.

Q: Sharing of equipment is not allowed. I have my own equipment. How does this affect me?

A: 95% of our club or league players own their own equipment. No sharing occurs. For league players using center-supplied balls and shoes, these will be completely sanitized before and after use. In fact, your local bowling center may allow you to “check out” your favorite ball and pair of shoes for the season. A deposit will be required. This way you are assured your preferred ball will always be with you and any possible spread of germs minimized.

Q: Players may not switch between teams in league play. How does this affect me?

A: 99% of leagues maintain the same team members throughout the entire season. For those leagues that have rules enabling line-ups to change game-to-game, this will not be allowed to also help minimize movement and interaction of people while in the bowling center.

Q: Individual lanes must be cleaned and sanitized between each league or practice session. How will this affect my league session?

A: League and practice sessions will have assigned starting and finishing times. Keeping the bowling settee areas, back counters and concourse areas cleaned and sanitized will require your local center an estimated 10- to 20-minute period between shifts to be in compliance with Department of Health regulations. Temporarily, you’ll be asked to arrive just 10-15 minutes prior to your league start time to avoid larger gatherings at one time. Centers will need those 10-20 minutes to insure your safety and to be in compliance with Department of Health regulations.

Q: Arcades and amusement or redemption activities must remain closed. Why?

A: Further actions to limit larger gatherings provide the basis behind this requirement. Once restrictions are lifted, based on reductions of COVID cases in your area, these areas may be allowed to open at some later date. But not for now.

Q: Restaurants and retail pro shops must adhere to all required guidelines for food service and retail for Phases 2 and 3 as required by your local health departments. Will we be able to have food and beverages while bowling in a league or practice session?

A: Yes, with restrictions. Some leagues are all immediate family members. Having your food and beverages delivered to you as a group and to your own table or settee area is allowed. For non-related teammates, your food and beverage consumption must be spaced apart, maintaining 6-ft. social distancing using concourse tables, back counters, etc. You may remove your masks, of course, while eating and drinking, but must put your mask back on immediately afterward. You are welcome to order and eat in the center’s restaurant or bar areas as well.

Q: Masks are required. What if I have a medical issue?

A: For your local bowling center to be permitted to open, everyone in the center, including employees and bowlers, MUST be wearing a mask at all times. People with medical issues, temporarily, until restrictions are eased or lifted, are respectfully asked to remain at home.

Complaints regarding the mask restrictions should be directed to the Governor’s Office or Washington State Department of Health. In order to stay open and viable, we must comply with this rule. No center owner wants to jeopardize anyone’s health. During these most unusual and trying times, your compliance of these regulations is greatly appreciated.

Q: How long are league sessions going to last?

A: Each center is developing its own schedules and formats. All sessions are limited to doubles, with some sessions running 12-16 weeks to start, perhaps a short break for year-end holidays, then resuming again in January and running through the end of May. Check your local center for details.

Q: What about tournaments?

A: Singles or doubles tournament will be permitted. Four-person teams are permitted, understanding that two bowlers will be limited to a single lane. Reservation-only formats are recommended. Gatherings of people around a central check-in counter or tournament table should be avoided.

Q: What about brackets for our leagues or tournaments?

A: Although there are no restrictions from the Department of Health, their goal is to reduce groups of people gathering close together at any one time. Hence, the no-spectator restriction. Brackets can be set up online, remotely. This format is strongly encouraged. At no time can there be a line of people waiting to register for your tournament event or to enter a special contest (i.e., brackets).

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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