A pair of amateur bowling tournaments kicked off in Carson City this weekend, drawing more than 1,000 league bowlers from five western states.
Organizers of both the 2008 Nevada State USBC Open Championship -hosted by Carson Lanes for Nevada bowlers only; and the 30th annual SP Mixed Fours Tournament -hosted by Gold Dust West for bowlers from throughout the region, said the infusion of bowlers brought not only new attention to the reinvigorated sport, but some much-needed revenue for the capital city as well.
"When we bid this tournament we thought we had a pretty good shot," said Bill Baker, the bowling center manger at Gold Dust West, which will host of the Mixed Fours Tournament through June 22. "This tournament had been in Reno for about the last 25 years and so, we decided to give it a shot and show people what's going on in Carson.
"I think the scores have been high and there's been plenty of activities for (bowlers) to do - from Virginia City to visiting the museum."
Several bowlers said they also enjoyed their time at the tables when away from the lanes this weekend.
"Yeah, we did a little gambling," said Allen Call, who traveled with his Roseville, Calif. team to Carson City this weekend. "The bowling was good, the gambling was bad; but we had a lot of fun this trip ... we definitely like coming to this area."
Coy Wiles, 90, a Klamath Falls, Ore., resident, was the reigning oldest tournament bowler this weekend in Carson. After bowling three games at or above his average 181, he was ready for the drive back up to Southern Oregon with his wife of 65 years, Bette.
"We have a good time down here," he said. "The weather's good. The bowling was fine. And we enjoy the trip."
Asked why he still bowls, without hesitation Wiles replied, "the people."
"I didn't start bowling until I was 55," said the retired timber industry worker. "We met some nice folks then, and it's continued.
"I missed last year because I had to get a pacemaker. I missed the year before because I was fighting cancer. But I'm here now - and that's what counts."
Camaraderie was the name of the game at Carson Lanes on Sunday as well. As more than 700 bowlers from around the state are expected to roll at the bowling alley on the south end of town, organizers said. Showcasing Carson also was paramount to their planning.
"This is great momentum for us," said Chris Beard, president of the Carson Country USBC - the host club for the tournament which runs through May 4. "We're going to take this all the way. Bowling has really made a comeback and is a growing sport amongst women and families.
"We plan on coming soon in front of the (Carson City) school board and seeing if bowling can become a lettered sport. We have some fantastic youth bowlers here who have a chance to earn scholarship money - it's just a great time."
Co-organizers Rip and Judy Ripley, who were inducted into the USBC BA Hall of Fame prior to the first pin falling last weekend, both said they've seen bowling come a long way during their 15 years organizing the tournament.
"This tournament's been around for 61 years," Rip said. "I can't necessarily speak for those first years - I'm not that old -but we've seen the sport really take off over the last few years ... especially in this region."
While the National Bowling Stadium in Reno was mentioned as the "epicenter" of bowling in the U.S. by tournament affiliates this weekend - for many Nevadans and bowlers from throughout the west - there is no place like Carson City during tourney time.
"It seems like it's all here," said Brian Dennis of Roseville, Calif. "Bowling, gambling, the mountains - the local history. What else do you want?"