SOUTH GLENS FALLS — If you’ve been bowling in the last 137 days, you must have your own private bowling alley.
That’s how long it’s been since commercial bowling centers across the state have been closed, after being shut down as part of the state’s general response to stop the spread of coronavirus. Now, their owners want Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to let them re-open.
Bowling center owners say being closed so far has cost them $90 million in lost revenue, and their continued existence is threatened if they can’t open for the fall bowling leagues that normally start in September.
They can open safely, they said, and the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association has sent the state a proposed safe re-opening plan — but has heard nothing back.
“Two bowling centers have closed permanently in the last ten days,” said Doug Bohannon, president of the state association and owner of Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center in South Glens Falls.”Each day that passes increases the risk of more closing for good. We are scared … You can only go without income for so long.”
Bohannon’s business hosted a press conference Friday attended by more than a dozen bowling center owners, as well as numerous supporters. They outlined their planned safety procedures and the economic importance of their industry, and support from state legislators of both political parties who represent the area.
“The case for re-opening bowling alleys is clear and compelling,” said state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, who wrote a letter to the governor about the issue in mid-July. “Bowling alleys are a vital part of our economy, especially upstate.”
“The economic impact that bowling centers have on their communities is substantial, and they are at risk,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake. “It is time for the governor to issue the guidelines and let the bowling centers get open.”
Bohannon and others said their plans include leaving every other lane vacant to allow for social distance, sanitizing all community bowling balls between use, and the use of disposable shoe coverings instead of bowling shows. Plexiglass barriers, six-foot floor markers and multiple signs about masking and distance are also part of the plans, and many bowling centers have already put the changes in place.
“Bowling centers are open in all the states surrounding New York, and there is no evidence that having any of those centers open has contributed to any positive COVID tests,” Bohannon said.
There are about 300 bowling centers in the state, which together employ an estimated 9,000 people, Bohannon said.
The fall and winter are when bowling alleys are busiest, said Rich Shelton, who owns Saratoga Strike Zone, which has been in Saratoga Springs since the 1950s.
“League play is number one,” Shelton said. “They’re the group that is demanding we be open. For some people, this is their primary hobby and source of enjoyment.”
In response to the appeals, Cuomo’s office issued a statement that didn’t directly address bowling centers’ issues, but said the focus remains on stopping COVID-19.
“The measures the governor has taken were intended to — and did — curb the rise of infection across the state,” said spokesman Jason Conwall. “They have also allowed us to avoid subsequent spikes of infection.
“Reports show that infections are rising in more than 40 states and that officials in those states have been forced to re-close businesses and other parts of the economy that were opened too early,” Conwall continued. “Every public opinion survey has shown an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers support our re-opening approach. We understand that some people aren’t happy — but better unhappy than sick or worse.”