Bowling Editorial - Joan Taylor's "Vegas Diary" from the Bowl Expo



    We all know that bowling itself has "something for everybody." But I also realized after spending this week in Las Vegas that Bowl Expo offers something for everybody, too. Hence, I present my "Vegas Diary."

    Day One: Saturday, June 23 Thank you, Continental for getting me there on time. Checked in at Mandalay Bay, once I found the right area in this huge hotel. The place is so big that they actually have two supersized hotels on their property, the regular hotel, and the pricier one named "THE hotel." There were two big national conventions going on at the same time, as the hotel features two huge convention centers, meeting rooms, ballrooms, etc. For the first time ever in my travels I had a room with five digits. The normal "do not disturb/make up my room" sign read "Recovering" on one side and "Relaxing" on the other. I guess the maids knew enough to clean the rooms, and they did a fine job of it, too. This is one of those places that has a telephone in the bathroom (and in this one a small flat screen TV next to the double sinks). Day Two: Sunday, June 24 Today the Bowling Writers Association of America (BWAA) held their annual meeting. In addition to our rekindling old friendships and generating new ones, this was the first meeting of the newly merged organization (with National Women Bowling Writers). By streamlining the sponsored meals and meeting reports down, and eliminating the fun bowling tournament, the agenda could be completed in one day with another session held in reserve. When the business concluded, I had been elected to the Board of Directors, which may prove to be a dubious honor. The new board is a blend of old and new, men and women. Day Three: Monday, June 25 This is the first day of the national Bowling Proprietors' of America (BPAA) meetings, and they included the writers in their welcome breakfast and general sessions. The first of two days of seminars and workshops started and we were given the privilege of attending those. I selected a two-hour session presented by Dr. Dean Hinitz, Sports Psychologist, entitled "Competition and the Mental Game: What to do before, during and after competition." Hinitz has appeared at the bowling clinic at Rockaway Lanes and is different at each interactive lecture he presents. Those two hours flew by, to say the least. The new Board met at 1 p.m. and addressed many issues. Next year's meeting and BPAA Bowl Expo will be held in Orlando. We discussed meeting at a less opulent and smaller hotel. As much as Mandalay Bay is big and beautiful, it became tedious to walk from the room to the convention and meeting room areas and back throughout the day, even with sneakers on. A few people with issues were able to rent small carts to get around. By the third day I envied them. Day Four: Tuesday, June 26 We chose our seminars or activities, and I again saw "Dr. Dean" hosting a session, this called "Bullet Proof Strategies for Business and Coaching Sessions." The content easily applied to anyone whether they ran a center, were a coach, or not. At noon I attended a lunch where an award that the writers present called the "Flowers for the Living" was given to a very surprised Len Nicholson. Len was the lanes maintenance man for years with the professional bowlers' tour, wrote some books about it, and currently hosts a weekly cyber-radio show entitled "The Phantom" in which he interviews people including proprietors, promoters, bowling stars, and yes, even an occasional bowling writer. That evening, Columbia hosted a press party during which more awards were given out. As fate would have it, the Brunswick rep invited the writers to view a new bowling center a short ride out of town (Charleston Boulevard), and said that transportation would be provided. It didn't sound like much until Johnny Petraglia told me that I wouldn't believe what this center has, so I opted to go and it was the best decision I made all week. Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa, like everything else Vegas, is huge. If you are lucky enough to participate in a tournament there, you will be at a complex that includes the bowling center, a huge casino, 750 hotel rooms, a 20-screen Regal cinema, several restaurants, and a huge swimming pool area with cabanas. In fact, according to center manager Dennis Mathews, this year's PBA Tournament of Champions has been moved to January 23-27, from Mohegan Sun to Red Rock. The center has 60 Brunswick lanes. Instead of a control desk, an area is marked "Welcome Center." Shoe rental is $3.50 and comes with a pair of socks which each customer keeps. It's about time! Surprisingly, the prices of open bowling range only from $2 to $4.50 per game, depending on the day and time. Ah, but then we went through the doors by lane 1 into bowling paradise, the VIP bowling area. There were three "bowling suites" each with four lanes and several couches, resembling a lounge more than a bowling area. All 12 lanes or any combination can be used for private parties such as corporate events or even bachelor/bachelorette celebrations. The suites are rented for $1,000 for three hours with a $300 minimum for food and beverages. Once the guests arrive in their suite, all of their facilities are right there for bar and food service, separated from the general bowling area. Brunswick Bowling and Billiards president, Warren Hardie, was like a proud new father at the center, and is enthusiastic about the pro tour bringing in the Tournament of Champions. Meanwhile, 600 proprietors and their spouses, media, pro bowlers and industry leaders were given a tour of the facility and treated to a lavish party. When I returned to the hotel and was asked what I thought of the new bowling center, I said, "If I died and went to heaven, it would look like Red Rock." By the way, their website is: Day Five: Wednesday, June 27 The Bowl Expo General Session opened with keynote speakers James Carvell and Mary Matalin (last year it was Rudy Giuliani). The BPAA spares no expense in bringing in excellent presenters from outside the bowling community. I chose this day to use my all-day pass to the spa and exercise facilities and also the swimming area at Mandalay Bay. (By the way, there is a gigantic pool with simulated ocean waves, a smaller quieter pool, and a simulated river where people can go tubing). The Expo opened for Day One. This isn't just for proprietors, either. Exhibitors ranged from insurance underwriters to novelty merchandisers. BPAA, USBC, Brunswick, Strike Ten Entertainment, Storm, Columbia, AMF, and Ebonite had large displays and brought in their pro staffers to meet and greet. Brunswick had two "virtual lanes" set up in a "Beat the pros" competition with Johnny Petraglia and Parker Bohn III. Later on Brunswick had a drawing for a Bayliner boat (sorry, press people were ineligible). Because many bowling centers, particularly the newer facilities, have become family recreation centers, many vendors were on hand with pinball machines, beverage dispensing units, go-karts, pitching machines, and virtual golf. Although the annual "Salute to bowling" fundraiser was held that evening for the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum, I treated myself to see Barry Manilow at the Hilton across town. Somehow the casino gods who had robbed me during the week smiled, as Barry picked me to dance with him on stage during one of his songs. No, I didn't get a picture, sad to say, but this shows that during a stay at Bowl Expo, there are many experiences and surprises to be had, within and outside of the bowling related events. Unfortunately there was no time to ask Mr. M. if he likes to bowl. Maybe next time. Day Six: Thursday, June 28 I was one of three bowling writers (Tom Clark, formerly of USA Today, Dick Evans from Florida, and me) chosen to ask questions of industry leaders at a champagne breakfast. Eight people representing USBC, Brunswick, AMF, the BPAA, lane surfacers, the PBA, a US Marine base, and insurance underwriters took the stage to field questions. Hopefully it was informative to the attendees. Personally I would like to have had it last another hour. On to the Trade Show to try to see all the exhibits and get some autographs for our county juniors back home. At 7 p.m. there was a huge closing night party called Club Expo. For a modest fee of $79 for attendees and press, the ballroom offered food and a chocolate fountain with goodies for dipping, and an open bar. At 9 p.m. LeeAnn Rimes and her amazing band put on a fabulous show including an encore. Ms. Rimes said that she enjoys bowling on the road to relax between shows. Photography was permitted and in a short time hundreds of cell phones were held high to get pictures to send to the folks back home. Once the show was over, hugs, business cards, and promises of "See you next year" were exchanged. Day Seven: Friday, June 29 Continental was again on time, which is not to be taken for granted if you watch the news. Mother Nature complied and after a week of triple-digit weather in Las Vegas, I appreciated a cool mid-70's temperature when hubby Guy picked me up at Newark Airport.< I reflected that more people should go to Bowl Expo, as there were activities for spouses, young people, and future proprietors (The Young Guns, initiated by the Martino family from Hopelawn, NJ). Except for the sore muscles and blistered feet from all the walking, this was an enjoyable experience for me, combining meetings and networking with a relaxing vacation. Next year I'm thinking of bringing Guy. I'm sure that our being in Orlando, he'll find something to do at Disney or Universal while I'm at the meetings. Email: [email protected]