Tour hosts no more

by Bob Johnson 0

There was a time when the Professional Bowlers Assn. occasionally had more tournaments on its schedule than it had available host centers.

Those would now be considered the "good old days."

Today, as the PBA contracts its schedule in anticipation of a belt-tightening 2010-11 season, several centers that hosted tour stops this season probably won't be on the schedule next season.

Among the cities that may be on the outside looking in: Norwich, Conn.; Columbus, Ohio; Hammond, Ind.; Buffalo, N.Y., and Indianapolis.

A detailed schedule will not be unveiled for some time. However, the PBA has announced plans to conduct fewer events, and to offer multiple telecasts for at least two of them — the U.S. Open and the World Championship. Fewer tournaments equates with fewer host centers needed.

"We're disappointed," Norwich Entertainment Center co-owner Ken Fontaine told the Norwich Bulletin. "We worked three years just to build up to this. The first year is very difficult, [but] every year you fine-tune and now it's like clockwork.

"It's good for the community, you do it for three years, and now it's gone. It's tough."

Added Fontaine: "We're going to try to see what we can do, but it's a slim chance that it's coming back. We're absolutely not on the schedule right now."

It's a difficult situation for the PBA as well. Needing to cut back on expenses in order to stay afloat in a very tough economy that has seen other sports leagues fold and sponsorships dry up, the decision was made to cut back on traveling expenses and, like this season with the World Series of Bowling, tape multiple championship rounds in a single city.

The question is: By the PBA bringing its star players to fewer markets, will it diminish the tour's fan base to the point that television ratings suffer?

Patrick Allen, who finished second in what could be the final PBA tournament in Norwich (at least for the immediate future), told the Bulletin that he hates to see markets such as Norwich go away because the fans in such locales "appreciate us more."

It's one of those business dilemmas that has no real good answers.

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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