Last weekend I finally decided that I was going to go to the Syracuse Oncenter to see what the buzz was all about. The United States Bowling Congress women’s tournament is Syracuse for 3 months, and I’m a bowling fan. I had heard an entire bowling alley had been built in the building, and I had missed it years ago when the men came through, so I knew I had to check it out.

I parked in the outdoor lot that said parking would be $6, but it only turned out to be $5; that’s a nice start to a day. I walked into the building and it was oddly quiet. I learned later that I was in between starts, and that the second group was in a room where tournament officials talk about the rules, give them a little pep talk and shout out, then unleash them onto the lanes.

Before I got inside I noticed there had literally been two stores built inside the Oncenter. The first was a gift shop, selling t-shirts and other promotional items for the tournament. The second was a bowling supplies store, where people could buy shoes, bowling balls, and other accoutrements associated with bowling.

Once I walked through the doors to see the lanes I was amazed. They had turned the Oncenter into a 48 lane bowling alley, which was set up as 24 lanes, then a wide middle, and 24 more lanes. There was a walkway that separates the bowling area from the viewing area, which is a large set of stands behind the lanes broken up here and there for hallways. The stands are high enough to see everything and far enough back to that one would really have to be screaming loudly to affect the bowlers; this is a good thing as I think sometimes the fans are too close to the pro bowlers on TV when the money is on the line.

When I looked to my right I noticed what looked like its own little inside village. There were other stores set up inside, as well as a greeting area set up by the Syracuse Visitors and Convention Bureau, a food concession area, and the area where the women registered for the event. I talked to a lady named Julie, representing the SVCB, for a long time and she told me how much the ladies coming from other locales seemed to like the city, but the main attraction was Turning Stone Casino, which figures.

Finally it was time for some bowling, and I have to say that I was thrown off by the sound a little bit. I used to bowl religiously and I got to know the sounds well, loved them. In this case the sounds were somewhat muted and blended, such that if I wasn’t watching I couldn’t tell when someone had thrown a perfect strike or not. The cycling of the pins by the machines was off in my head as well. Still, maybe if one was bowling a muted sound would be a welcome relief of some sorts.

It was easy to tell who was good and who wasn’t, and there were many more that weren’t good. But women had come from all over the country to compete, and the session I watched had only one team from New York, a team from Rochester and the only all-black team during that session. I point that out because, well, it’s me, and there were only 9 women of color period during the session I watched, which had 42 teams going at it (they left open lanes 1-2, 23-24, and 47-48). I talked to one of the ladies in the stands that came with the Rochester women. She said she’d injured herself and someone else had to take her place, but that the team was coming a second time near the end of the tournament and she planned on participating at that time.

Overall it’s a lot of fun to watch, and I stayed for one full game so I could see the first set of scores, then I left. Of course these days all scoring is done automatically; I wonder how many people remember how to keep score. It was a nice time but without a horse to bet on, I hauled out of there satisfied with what I got to see. This weekend the professional women bowlers are in town, but they’re charging entry to watch them so I’ll just have to be satisfied with what I got to see already.

If you have some free time and want to see the Oncenter in a much different light, I encourage you to check it out; you’ll have fun.

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