Numerous bowling centers around the nation – and especially in New York State – are “on the brink” of closing for good, according to a well-known Long Island proprietor who is spearheading a grassroots campaign to persuade Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow these recreational facilities to open up sooner than currently planned.
“We want to make everyone aware that bowling centers are more like restaurants, and should be permitted to reopen in Phase Three (of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan) instead of Phase Four,” said John LaSpina, president of Maple Family Centers, a chain of four bowling centers in the New York City area and another location in Florida.
La Spina has held numerous bowling leadership positions at the national, state, and local levels over a 60-year career. He has received multiple honors, including being selected as the International Bowling Industry Person of the Year in 1994 and to the New York State Hall of Fame in 2016.
He is calling upon New York state bowling association officers, league bowlers, and local government officials to contact their local legislators and request that the governor places bowling into Phase Three, a move that would enable bowlers to enjoy their sport two weeks earlier than currently planned.
Bowling is not the same as professional sports played in huge stadiums, and events staged in arenas and the theater, La Spina said.
“As bowlers centers have plenty of room and as proprietors understand the challenges we face, there is no reason why we can’t open up bowling in Phase Three so we may save some of the centers that are on the brink,” he said. “We respect the rules of social distancing and can easily and safely accommodate bowlers in our large facilities with 50 percent occupancy sooner rather than later.”
LaSpina said he is afraid that more and more businesses, not just bowling centers, will be closing their doors and may not come back as a result of the devastation caused by the coronavirus.
He and others representing the NYS Bowling Proprietors Association have drafted a letter that includes “talking points” and a list of protocols that bowling center personnel has put in place to protect the health of customers and staff.
Just a few of the protocols include:
-- Cleaning the seating, ball return, and scoring area using a disinfectant rated for COVID-19 between each lane usage;
-- Disinfecting each bowling center rental ball before and after each use, and each rental shoe before and after each use;
-- Providing social distancing throughout the facility to eliminate shared spaces;
-- Providing cashless payment options where possible;
-- Providing a separate entrance and exit for guests;
-- Installing plexiglass barriers at counters, between employees and customers;
-- Limiting group reservations to six or less.
He also said that people can email him at [email protected] if they need to identify members of the state Senate and Assembly in their area.
“We’re appealing to anyone – local mayors, police commissioners, restaurateurs and owners of other businesses – who can help us make our case, who know that bowling is a safe activity and that those who operate bowling are responsible people with a plan to keep everyone safe and to keep their facilities clean,” LaSpina said.