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PBA tourney puts spotlight on Springfield

Tournament hosts say nationally televised PBA event puts area bowling on the map

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On a late Saturday night in February, a team of more than 40 individuals converged on Enterprise Park Lanes, embarking on an overnight transformation. They meticulously removed bowling ball returns, dismantled lanes and erected massive screen panels, working tirelessly into the early hours. Such intense preparations set the stage for the Professional Bowlers Association Pete Weber Missouri Classic, which was slated for broadcast live Feb. 18 on Fox Sports 1.

“It was quite an undertaking to set up,” said Danny Hogan, a lifelong bowler and tournament attendee. “I got my tickets online about a month before the event, and we were front and center, sitting right on the lanes.”

Hogan said his $25 ticket got him a front-row seat, mere feet away from the professional bowlers competing for a spot at the PBA Delaware Classic, with a $25,000 first-place prize.

Anthony Simonsen from Las Vegas placed first, taking home the trophy and prize money.

“The atmosphere was electric,” Hogan said. “We had to be quiet and still and respect the bowler. But after the throw, everyone gets so excited.”

Hogan said Springfield is a great bowling town with a family-like community. He credits Enterprise Park Lanes co-owner Steve Wiemer for bringing such large-scale tournaments to town.

“It’s hard to believe we were sitting here at Enterprise, in Springfield, watching an FS1 tournament,” Hogan said.

Hogan was one of about 300 watching the event live on location. According to 11Frame.com, a digital bowling news site, approximately 368,000 people tuned in to watch on television, giving it the highest viewership for a PBA event on FS1 since 2021. The competition also had nearly 100,000 views on its YouTube telecast.

Though this was the first time a PBA bowling tournament had been televised in the region, it wasn’t the first PBA tournament held in Springfield. The PBA held a Springfield Classic in February 2023.

“The big thing about it being televised is that it put Springfield bowling on the map,” Wiemer said.

Wiemer, who co-owns Enterprise Park Lanes with his wife, Carla, has been connected to the bowling industry most of his life and was recently awarded the Bowling Proprietor of the Year by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America.

Bowling has been in Wiemer’s family since his par-ents in 1971 purchased Cherokee Lanes, where Bass Pro Shops outlets are located now, and have been involved in seven other centers.

Keegan Standage, Enterprise’s general manager, said Wiemer was encouraged by PBA bowler Toby Contreras to take PBA Regional & Senior Tour Director John Weber’s phone call about potentially hosting the event. From there, the PBA determined if Enterprise Park Lanes would be a good fit as a tournament stop.

PBA Commissioner Tom Clark said via email that deciding on key tournament locations involves a variety of components, including an accessible location, adaptability of the bowling center size for producing a TV broadcast and the caliber of each center, such as lane conditions, general mainte-nance and fan base.

“Including prize money, staff operations and television production, a PBA Classic event such as the one we held in Springfield, Missouri, runs approximately $400,000 in costs,” Clark said. He said a portion is covered by the host centers – roughly $25,000 to cover the PBA’s staff event operations.

“The bowling center’s larger investment of resources is sacrificing its normal business revenue,” Clark added. “The center can recoup expenses, by holding a pro-am featuring the PBA players, collecting gate revenue, concessions and the marketing value of the PBA and TV exposure.”

Standage said 250 tickets were sold for the live finals and that the event was well worth the time and effort.

“People came from all over,” she said, adding that bowlers across the country will attend many of the qualifier tournaments in hopes of making it to one of the final spots.

One bowler, David “Boog” Krol, didn’t have to travel far. A Nixa resident, Krol was among 90 competitors vying for 11 open spots in the Missouri Classic. He made the cut to compete with 63 other players in the tournament, securing a 24th place finish that earned him $3,500.

“It was awesome,” Krol said about competing locally. “And my expenses were almost nothing.”

Krol said he typically spends about $6,000 throughout the January-May bowling season to cover tournament entry fees and travel. With equipment sponsorships through Hammer Bowling, Krol, 28, said he’d like to pursue bowling as a full-time profession.

“I’ve been working at Andy B’s since I was 16,” he said, noting after qualifying for the Missouri Classic, he had to call his manager and let him know he wouldn’t be in the next day. “They accommodate me so well.”

Bowling fan Hogan called Krol one of the area’s bowlers to watch and with reason: After four rounds of qualifying games, Krol went on to win first place at the Delaware Classic on March 3, taking home the $25,000 prize and earning his first career title. Up next, Krol said he’ll head to the U.S. Bowling Congress Masters in Las Vegas, scheduled March 23, followed by the PBA World Series of Bowling XV in Detroit.

“It’s a dream come true,” Krol said. “It was my first national tour win, and my first time on national television.

“I dreamed of this as a child growing up, watching the PBA tour on Sundays.”

While the excitement of the televised PBA tournament lingers, Standage said Enterprise’s biggest annual event, the Greater Ozarks Open, kicked off Feb. 24. The 16-week event, she said, brings in more than 7,000 bowlers competing for over $800,000 in prize money.

On the opening day, Enterprise’s parking lot was full of campers and out-of-state license plates.

“Bowlers come from all over to participate,” Standage said, adding each bowler pays $105, plus spends money on food and accommodations. “For the last 32 years, this tournament has been hosted at Enterprise. It’s like a hidden secret, but I bet hotels and restaurants would notice if they weren’t here one year.”

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