Splits, spares and strikes: Reno’s National Bowling Stadium a lanes gem

With the lull happening with bowling leagues around the holidays, I’m getting a chance to explore a few topics I never find time or room to explore in this space.

One day I was thinking of possible topics and I came up with this one – the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev.

I’ve bowled there seven times when the U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championships (and formerly the American Bowling Congress Championships) have been held there, starting in 1998 and most recently last April.

The place opened near Reno’s downtown in 1995 and features 78 lanes in the main area. I always have a hard time remembering exactly how many lanes there are, since 78 seems like kind of an odd number. Well, actually it’s an even number, but odd compared to, say, if there were 80 lanes.

Doing research on several websites, I just recently found out the stadium actually was designed to have 80 lanes, but after the building was in place and they were setting down the lanes, designers realized they needed a wide walkway in the middle where bowlers enter. So they took two lanes out of the middle for this walkway, leaving it with 78 lanes.

It’s one of the neat things about the USBCs. Before each shift of the tournament, you check-in at a large set of rooms located near the back of the lanes, which includes ball weighing, an explanation of rules and recognition for “celebrities” who have been tournament champions or bowled at least 25 of these events.

Then, at least for the team portion of the event, you walk behind the pinsetting machines and come out onto this walkway in the middle of the 78 lanes to musical fanfare and applause from the spectators and workers in attendance. They also play the national anthem before team events.

What is the equivalent of about an eight-story building is listed at 330,000 square feet, which includes space for the lanes, the check-in paddock area, lockers, and quite a bit of room for bowling vendors, mostly ball and apparel companies.

It cost $47.5 million and took three years to build. Part of the agreement in getting this showcase built was that the USBC Open and Women’s championships would each be there every third year, so the place has a four- to six-month long tournament keeping it in business two out of every three years.

The ceiling in the bowling area is 44 feet high, which allows seating for 1,200 spectators, with most seating behind lanes 10-36.

The USBCs don’t need anywhere near that kind of fan capacity, but it’s allowed the stadium to host some major pro and amateur tournaments, like the USBC Masters and U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open.

It’s also been the scene for the bowling-themed movie “Kingpin.”

There are 39 8-foot-by-11-foot scoreboards, one for each pair of lanes, attached above the pin decks, and were converted to high-definition digital in the last five or six years.

It’s pretty cool I have to say when you can walk along the spectator area when we first get to Reno and check out the stadium, surveying the scoreboards for what the scores are and where people are from.

The stadium has a three-level parking garage, which is handy so you’re not carrying or pulling your bowling bags over huge distances. And with the lanes actually located on the fourth floor, it’s also nice they have elevators and escalators to bring you upstairs if you’re coming from outside.

I’ll be heading back there in April for my 19th consecutive tournament. Since I’ve been participating, they’ve also held the tourney two times each in Baton Rouge, La., and Albuquerque, N.M., and once each in Las Vegas, Corpus Christi, Tex., Salt Lake City, Knoxville, Tenn., Huntsville, Ala., Syracuse, N.Y., and Billings, Mont.

Next year, they’re heading to El Paso, Tex., before heading back to Reno in 2016.

Now on to The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week, an abbreviated version for the week of Dec. 20-26 with more than half the area’s leagues off for Christmas:

Jackie Baldini won the women’s race by shooting 126 pins over her 157 average in the Thursday Night Ladies League at Country Lanes with a 597 series on games of 222, 194 and 181.

Next among four other ladies at least 100 over was Stacy Filizetti in the Friday Nite Mixed at Country, who shot 109 pins over her 143 average with 538 and a 191 top game.

For the guys, fellow Friday Nite Mixed bowler Marc Bottari was 107 over his 144 average with 539 on games of 128, 219 and 192.