A state bowling tournament is bringing close to 2,000 bowlers to Oak Ridge and Knoxville for the last two weekends in February and the first weekend in March.
It’s the Tennessee State USBC Bowling Association 69th Annual Handicap Tournament.
The team events are at Oak Ridge Bowling Center on South Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge, and the singles and doubles events are at Strike and Spare on Western Avenue in Knoxville.
Officials estimated there are between 1,400 and 1,800 bowlers participating. Add in local bowlers on sub lists, and the total is probably close to 2,000, they said. Plus, many bowlers bring others with them, including family members, and they’re staying in area hotels, eating at local restaurants, and taking children to see tourist attractions like the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge and American Museum of Science and Energy.
“This is phenomenal for Oak Ridge,” said Craig Porter, general manager at the Oak Ridge Bowling Center. It also helps Knoxville, he said.
He said there is probably the equivalent of 1.7 to 1.8 people per bowler, and they are split between those staying in Oak Ridge and others staying in Knoxville. There were 60 rooms reserved at the DoubleTree Hotel yesterday, the host hotel, for just a delegates meeting, Porter said.
Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch participated in the opening ceremony last weekend and welcomed delegates at a breakfast this weekend, Porter said.
The tournament includes 348 teams with five members each, 691 doubles, and 1,237 singles. Some bowlers might bowl only on teams or only in the singles or doubles events, but many compete in all three.
Porter, who is bowling in the tournament himself, said the bowlers come from across Tennessee.
The tournament was in Memphis last year and could be in Columbia next year. It was last held in Oak Ridge in 2008, and participation is up since then, Porter said.
Saturday, February 27, is the busiest day, with three shifts at Oak Ridge Bowling Center at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. The other dates have two shifts: 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The public is welcome to come to the bowling center and watch the competition, Porter said.
He said the handicap tournament levels the playing field and features competitors who bowl from an average 130 to an average 230.
The tournament is hosted by the Oak Ridge United States Bowling Congress. It has an estimated prize fund of $93,900.
Len Hart, owner of the Oak Ridge Bowling Center, has been working to get Oak Ridge High School more involved in bowling, and he said the high school now has a bowling club called ORHS Alley Cats that has about 30 bowlers. They bowl Friday afternoons after school.
Hart is hoping they can become sanctioned by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. One hundred eighty-three high schools in the state are now TSSAA-sanctioned, Hart said.
The Oak Ridge Bowling Center hosts high school tournaments, he said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.