Plaza Lanes owner Dino Morelli is reporting a significant increase in youth bowlers already registered for this season.
After seeing 111 bowlers registered with the Youth Bowling Council here last year, Morelli said 150 have signed up so far this year—and that number may jump even higher.
Morelli said Plaza Lanes will be hosting a “Bring a Buddy” day this Sunday at 1 p.m. where YBC members can bowl with a friend.
“The idea is to get more young people involved in the sport," said Morelli, in his third season running Plaza Lanes. ”We saw our biggest increase in YBC, and we’re really excited about bringing more bowlers into the program.
“It’s a good, inexpensive sport, and where else can you go where it’s 72 [degrees Fahrenheit] inside during the winter,” he joked.
Youth leagues run here until May.
Morelli also is hoping the younger bowlers can repeat their success on the lanes, which, last season, saw Plaza Lanes represented at the provincial level.
“We have some good bowlers in Fort Frances,” he added.
Part of the reason there’s so much talent at the youth level, Morelli said, is the fact younger bowlers receive “free coaching” from Master bowlers.
But bowling isn’t taking off here only with the younger ones. Plaza Lanes ranked third out of 45 houses in Northern Ontario in registrations in the Golden Agers division, a senior league for those aged 55 and over.
But while those numbers may reflect bowling’s popularity in these particular age groups, Morelli admitted there has to be a more serious pitch conducted in regards to changing people’s perception of the sport.
“Bowling alleys haven’t changed since the 1930s," he noted. ”They haven’t changed with the times. We have to make them become more family-oriented, where they are sports centres where people can bowl, shoot a game of pool, have something to eat.
“We want to make it quality family time where everyone can play from three years old to 90,” he stressed.
But he also noted promoting five-pin bowling on the international front has been a tough sell. And because it’s only played here in Canada, no government grants are available because it’s not considered an international sport.
Still, Morelli said there will be a program introduced to schools “sometime in December” that will introduce kids to the sport via videos, instruction, and presentations.
“We already have about one million plus playing the sport across Canada but with this program being introduced to the schools, it will be great for the sport,” he enthused.
Meanwhile, Plaza Lanes will be hosting several tournaments this season, including the Plaza Lanes Invitational in November, the Masters-Bantams in February, and the Sunset Aggregate in March (which comes to Fort Frances every five years).