by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
It was a lonely six months at Nautical Lanes (NL) in Rogers City.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), that brought all league play to a quick halt back in March, kept all Michigan bowling alleys closed until June 10.
For the safety of the public during a traditionally slow time, the Bannasch family decided to keep it closed until Aug. 28 with two kickoff events after Labor Day, and just started a new season of league play the week of Sept. 14.
Co-owner Luanne Bannasch was just excited to have people around again.
“I had a couple of my own bowlers that would not come back, but everybody has been raring to go,” said Luanne. “It is so nice to see people and talk to them.”
“I’m excited to be back,” said Jan Misiak, who is on one of six teams that bowls Monday evenings. “I think it is great that the bowling alley is back in operation. Ladies are out to have a fun night…laugh, giggle and unwind.”
It was easy to assume that the league bowlers would come back a bit rusty, but it’s been quite the opposite with four, 300 games in the first two weeks and a 299 game. There are usually four perfect games in a year, said co-owner Scott Bannasch.
Additionally, Al Gajewski set a new series record of 847 just last Friday. It had been in place for 20 years. The old mark was set by John Darga, who rolled an 836 series.
THE BOWLING center is practicing social distancing with tables 6 feet apart and hand sanitation stations, and when there is open bowling, additional cleaning measures.
“House balls are sanitized, shoes are sanitized,” said co-owner Brian Bannasch.
The biggest question was about the wearing of masks.
“Wear a mask when you enter the facility and any common areas,” Brian continued. “Once you are seated, once you are participating, no need for the mask as long as you can practice social distancing.
“If they were required to wear the masks all of the time, I think it would have been more of an issue. We have older clientele. I don’t know how some of these people could keep the mask on the entire time.”
Brian said senior league numbers are down four teams or about 20 percent.
“We are fortunate because other centers in the state have seen a 25 to 30 percent drop, across the board,” said Brian. “Our evening leagues have maintained.”
Many of the senior bowlers who are staying away because of COVID-19 have said they will be back next season if there is a vaccine in place.
“Next year could be a really great year, because we could have everybody back,” said Brian.
No decision has been made on youth leagues as of yet.
For the much-decorated high school teams, it could be athletes and coaches and maybe the parents driving and that would be the only ones allowed to attend the events.
“They will probably be wearing masks,” said Brian.
NL has received state and federal assistance. The business received second-round funding from Payment Protection Plan because everybody kept working, and just recently, The Lighthouse Restaurant and the bowling center received a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“It was nice getting the MEDC money right before the start of the bowling season,” said Brian. “It put us in a good position.”