Bowlers Journal International has confirmed that at least 12 employees at the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas, were laid off on Wednesday, Sept. 17. The layoffs affected employees in both the United States Bowling Congress and the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America.
Some sources have suggested to BJI that this latest in a line of layoffs and restructurings since USBC's 2008 move from its prior headquarters in Greendale, Wis., to its present location tn Arlington, reduced the employee count at USBC to fewer than 100 people. To put that number in perspective, BJI Senior Editor, Bob Johnson, reported in the June, 2013 issue of BJI that "During its final years in Greendale, the USBC had around 220 employees. When the organization moved to the new International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas, it had around 170."
Perhaps the highest-profile round of layoffs to occur at the campus before this week occurred in early February, 2010, when approximately 13 employees were let go in one day.
BJI spoke with USBC President, Andrew Cain, earlier today. While Cain declined to offer any specific information regarding the Sept. 17 layoffs, he did address questions and rumors that have emerged on social networks and elsewhere since Wednesday.
"Regarding questions about where we are now, it’s certainly a challenge, and it's something that we are going to get through, and I think we will see growth in our future. We've had to be very honest with who we are, what we are, and what we're going to be. And I think that’s challenging for any business. It's time we truly help lead our segment of the industry through some of the tougher times without trying to glorify where we are as an organization.
"We've always been seen as a rock for the integrity and for the health of the industry," Cain added. "We've been a barometer for many years. It's very important that we take our leadership role in our industry seriously."
Asked if budget tightening actually is not unique to the bowling industry but rather the kind of thing underway across many industries in a difficult economic climate across the country, Cain said "That's a very practical way of looking at things. It doesn't speak to the emotional side of it. It never does, when people are involved. But, yeah, change has transcended every industry in this country in the last six or seven years. We've gone through it at USBC. That doesn't make us any more or less unique. It's also not an excuse, I should say. But it is something we are working hard on, and something we will continue to work on."
Cain also addressed conjecture that this week's layoffs may signal USBC is seeking to narrow its services down only to its role as the sport's National Governing Body.
"We've been pretty clear the last couple of years about what we're doing in forming ourselves as a National Governing Body. That does not mean we are out of the membership business by any means. That’s probably what's being insinuated. We're very much focused on our members and on the sport.
"Our success as a membership organization is tied to our efforts at reforming our strength as a National Governing Body and giving our members something to be proud of," Cain added. "People bowl for fun with friends and family, and we want to be able to help provide that for them. We have to do that with all integers in the industry. We need to refocus on our leadership role in the industry; that’s where we've struggled in recent years, and that's what we will focus on."
Asked what exactly that "role in the industry" may be, Cain said "I think we're a service organization. Our role is very clearly stated; it's to provide the standards, services, and resources in the sport of bowling. It's that simple. And if we are successful in providing that, the rest will take care of itself.
"I don't think the sport of bowling needs to be 'fixed,'" Cain continued. "There is nothing wrong with millions of people bowling each year. We need to make sure we're wholly focused on our mission of providing services and standards. We need to be true to the sport, and true to the integrity of the sport. We need to honor that.
"We've got a lot of good folks that are working for us and continue to. We will become more of a leader in the sport, and we will do it together."
Be sure to read our November issue for further coverage of this week's developments in Arlington.