Wichita makes bid for United States Bowling Congress women’s championships

Bishop Carroll sophomore Gus Morgan competes in the Class 5-1A regional bowling tournament Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012.
Bishop Carroll sophomore Gus Morgan competes in the Class 5-1A regional bowling tournament Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita officials on Wednesday made their run at attracting the United States Bowling Congress women’s championships, last held in the city in 2004.

It’ll be about a month before the national bowling group decides whether it wants to bring several thousand of the nation’s top women bowlers back to Wichita later this decade.

Mayor Carl Brewer led Wichita’s delegation to Arlington, Texas, to bid on the 2017 and 2019 championships. This year’s tourney will be held April 12 through June 30 in Reno, Nev.

Brewer said he was pleased with the presentation but left without a feel for the bowling group’s decision. His contingent included representatives of Go Wichita, who had refused to confirm the visit on Tuesday, and representatives of the city’s bowling community. Frank DeSocio, of Wichita’s Strike Ten Entertainment, said Thursday that he’s keeping his fingers crossed for good news from the group.

The Reno tournament is being held at a convention center. Wichita would hold main and secondary events at bowling centers citywide, giving visiting bowlers a chance to spend money at businesses across the city.

“I think we’re a great place for the tournament,” said Olivia Sandham, general manager of Northrock Lanes and a competitor in the 2004 tournament.

“I’ve bowled the tournament ever since that year, and Wichita definitely gave it more of a community feel. Some of the other times I’ve gone, it’s been done in a convention center and you don’t get the chance to get out and see much beyond a bunch of office buildings.”

Sandham said Wichita’s ability to promote the tournament to competitors will be key.

“We’re women,” she said, chuckling. “We spend money and you’re looking at the ability for them to spend money all over town.”

Other host cities offer everything from coupon books to special offers tailored to the host retailer.

“We come in, bowl a couple of games and spend a few hours in the center,” Sandham said. “Then, we’re going to need something to do. Some are here for as long as a week because they want to experience the city.”

Sandham and Ray Baty, who manages West Acres Bowl, said they doubt the city’s 2007 dustup with the bowling congress will affect the group’s decision. Wichita lost the 2011 men’s championships in 2007 to questions about the contract and the condition of Century II, the scheduled venue for that tournament.

Baty and Sandham said the city is ready to take on the men’s championships again, armed with improvements to Century II.

“It was a sad day when that got messed up the last time,” Baty said. “Now, we’re recovering from that.”

“A different animal,” Sandham said. “I don’t really think there’s anything negative there. The USBC constantly contacts and we have a lot of great athletes, proprietors and supporters of bowling here. They still look at Wichita as someplace they want to come.”