When the news Tony Sands had waited more than a year to hear finally broke the afternoon of April 6, the Vice President of the Bowling Centers of Southern California organization sat in his car and cried.
The proprietor of Jewel City Bowl in Glendale and Matador Bowl in Northridge had just gotten done with a golf outing and was about to drive to a meeting. Minutes earlier, California Governor Gavin Newsom had announced that the state’s 1.6-percent COVID-test positivity rate, as well as the expectation that 30 million Californians would be vaccinated by the end of April, meant the state could fully reopen by June 15.
“I’m so thrilled. It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster for us,” he said. That emotional roller coaster involved year-long shutdowns of bowling centers throughout California as Governor Newsom enforced some of the country’s most stringent COVID precautions.
“It’s funny how, just because [Newsom] said that, I think that alone will ease the fear that some of the people we spoke to still had about coming out,” he added.
For Scott Luba, who has run the pro shop at Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl for the past eight years and finally reopened along with the center on April 1, the news was just as welcome.
“It is fantastic news, and it will be better when June comes around so we can all open up. Right now, we are open, but at 25 percent.”
Jamie Celotti, general manager of Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl and President of Nor Cal Bowling Centers, was on a call with Nor Cal Bowling Centers members when the news broke.
The news “lightened it up a little bit,” she said. “We were talking with centers in the meeting that were frustrated because they weren’t allowed to reopen, yet in the next county over they were open. The fact that [Newsom] is even looking at reopening everybody is wonderful.”
Bob Thomas, Executive Director of Nor Cal Bowling Centers, also was on that call as the news broke. While he characterized the news as “great,” he said it also was met with “a little trepidation,” as Newsom’s June 15 reopening date hinges on the continued availability of vaccines and the continuation of low hospitalization rates.
“We just need to make sure it happens,” Thomas said.
Britton Fiske, the proprietor of Valley Bowl in Parkwood, said he will continue enforcing all safety precautions even if business do fully reopen on June 15.
“I still will check everyone’s temperatures. I still will require masks except when you’re on the approach or eating food. Lanes still will be cleaned before and immediately after bowlers are done. I still will keep bowling balls and shoes behind the desk to be thoroughly disinfected before and after each use,” he explained, adding that, “I get questions constantly from bowlers about when we will reopen. There’s a lot of people who have been missing it and some have driven as far as they can just so they can bowl where it’s open.”
For pro bowler Derek Gregory, a two-time PBA Regional champion who bowls out of Valley Bowl, those far-flung bowling destinations have included Nevada and Arizona over the past year “because obviously the PBA would not come here.”
Gregory added that a full, statewide reopening on June 15 “will be just wonderful. Just ecstatic. To a lot of recreational bowlers, it might not be a big deal. But I have been bowling since I was 4 years old, and I have been bowling professionally for 20 years. This is what I do.”
Also on that Nor Cal Bowling Centers call when the news broke was Mike Hillman, who formerly operated the now-shuttered Cloverleaf Family Bowl and formally began working at Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl on April 1.
“You could see the relief on their faces,” he said of members’ reaction to the news. “Like, ‘Thank God!’ We had just been listening to one proprietor in Sacramento talk about how frustrated he was about not allowed to reopen.”
Nineteen-year-old Madison Bailey, who lives in Rocklin and was the nation’s first U12 Girls champion in Junior Gold history in 2014, said, “Just in general, people need the community” that bowling provides. “It’s a family, and it’s hard when you don’t see your family for that long.”