Special Olympics athletes to help usher in 2006 USBC Open Championships


    United States

    American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas

    2006USBCOpenLogo.jpg Before the 2006 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships (formerly the ABC Championships Tournament) kicks off at the American Bank Center Exhibit Hall on Feb. 11, the newly built 48-lane installation and custom scoring system will be put to the test by more than 200 Special Olympics athletes, their friends and families.

    For the 16th consecutive year, the National Unified Bowling Tournament will be contested on the USBC Open Championships lanes, attracting 96 four-person teams from 15 states, which will compete Feb. 9 and 10.

    Each team will combine two Special Olympics athletes with two Unified partners, usually friends or family members. The athletes also will compete in doubles, pairing up each Special Olympics athlete with a Unified partner.

    "This is an opportunity for the Special Olympics athletes and their families to compete in a world-class venue, and there's nothing in the world like it," said Martin Allen, a program director for Special Olympics Ohio, who has been involved with the National Unified Tournament since its start in 1991 and will act as the Tournament Manager. "And when you compare the stadium to your local bowling center it's a world of difference, so this is something we all look forward to every year."

    Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities.

    Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for more than 1.7 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 150 countries, Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people's diverse gifts.

    Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. There is no cost to participate in Special Olympics.

    The week's activities also will include a series of practice sessions open to local bowlers and a youth scholarship tournament, all of which will help make sure the lanes and venue are ready for the USBC Open Championships to begin its 143-day run.

    The Open Championships begins with a mass ball shot ceremony on Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m., as the first of more than 63,000 bowlers take to the lanes. The official opening ceremony will begin at 7 p.m.

    "We are really proud to have the National Unified Tournament in our venue again this year, and I'm glad we are able to give the athletes this unique opportunity," USBC Open Championships Tournament Director Brian Lewis said. "We are also thankful to everyone who will be coming out to help us test everything. We are excited to be back in Corpus Christi, and the amount of local support has been tremendous."

    Presenting sponsors for the 2006 USBC Open Championships are Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Hotel/Casinos in Reno, Nev. Other participating sponsors are Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, Texas State Aquarium, Majestic Ventures Yacht Charters, Inc., USS Lexington Museum and Texas Treasure Casino Cruises.