For the first time in recent years, there were no casualties among the bowling centers in Erie County. This is welcome news after the departure of Amherst, Sheridan, Blasdell, Rose Bowl, and Leisureland over the last five years.
It remains to be seen if this indicates that the regional bowling industry has stabilized after a string of closings for reasons ranging from a roof collapse (Leisureland), to the fact that property had more value as commercial real estate than as a bowling center (Rose Bowl, Blasdell and Sheridan) to a lack of business (Amherst).
There are two new proprietors on the scene. Dan Adams has taken over at the former Ideal Lanes and renamed it the Kerns Avenue Bowling Center. There have been African-American managers at area establishments but Adams may be the first minority owner.
Brian Borowski, an Amherst native, has returned to the area and acquired the former Mil-Sher Lanes in the Town of Tonawanda and historic Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport.
Under Borowski's ownership, Mil-Sher has been renamed Classic Lanes.
"Mil-Sher had always been under a corporate [Brunswick] reign. I thought it needed a fresh name and fresh blood," Borowski said. "Classic Lanes. I liked the sound of it."
Allie Brandt Lanes keeps the namesake of one of Western New York's sports heroes, whose 886 series bowled in October 1939 at the old Allen Bowling Alleys in Lockport lasted as a national record for 49 years. Who would toy with that?
"Allie Brandt is a very iconic figure in the Lockport area," Borowski said.
Borowski, 42, worked for Brunswick's Recreation Center Division for the last six years and has been involved in management and ownership of bowling centers in Baltimore, Connecticut, Chicago and Colorado.
"I owned bowling centers in Iowa and Colorado. This [returning to Western New York] was an opportunity that presented itself. I couldn't handle retirement and my parents are still here so this was a chance to be with my parents for a while."
Borowski bowled at the University at Buffalo (1984-88).
"Jack Jurek, Brad Kiszewski and a lot of the top pros right now I competed against in college," Borowski said.
Most of Borowski's efforts at Classic and Allie Brandt have involved developing a new generation of bowlers. Physical improvements in the two houses will be put off until Borowski gets a clearer revenue picture at the end of the 2008-09 season.
"We're concentrating on two fronts. No. 1 is youth bowlers. We lost a generation back in the '80s and early '90s. So that is one of our targets of emphasis. That is the future of our business.
"More of our revenue stream is going to recreation bowling. League bowling is still very important, but recreational dollars seem a little bigger."
The strategy is to try and turn the young people who show up to area lanes for a night of social bowling into league bowlers.
"It's a little different process than it was in the '60s and '70s when you just opened the doors and people would come in. You have to work a little harder now."
>Szczerbinski wins title
John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda teamed with Brent Bowers to earn the gold medal in boys doubles for Junior Team USA in the 2008 Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships in San Salvador, El Salvador this week. Szczerbinski's 299 in the fourth game (he left a 10-pin on his last ball) gave the U.S. pair the title by 76 pins (2,740 to 2,664) over Daniel Melo and Juan Rodriguez of Columbia. Szczerbinski shot 1,398 for six games, while Bowers totaled 1,342, including 256 the final game as the pair pulled away. Bowers defeated Michael Piccari of Venezuela to win the best-of-three singles final.
* The PBA Tour, which opens in three weeks in Wichita with the PBA World Championship, has a new title sponsor. What was formerly the Denny's PBA Tour is now the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour.
* The Greater Buffalo USBC Association is accepting reservations at $40 per ticket for the GBUSBC Hall of Fame induction dinner at Samuel's Grande Manor on Nov. 29. Call the GBUSBC office at 668-4222. Upcoming GBUSBC events include the Women's Senior Singles Tournament at the Broadway Sports Center on Nov. 2 (entries close Oct. 24) and the 41st annual Youth Family Tournament at AMF Thruway Lanes Nov. 22-23 and 29-30. Official entry forms can be downloaded from the GBUSBC Web site.
* Joe Doxbeck, a 38-year-old Buffalo police officer, won his first Amateur Bowlers Tour title by defeating Vicky Dixon, 243-191. Sunday, the ABT will conduct Classic and Masters division tournaments at Manor II with squads at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.