Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009 | 10:39 p.m.
The United State Bowling Congress Open Championships began Saturday and for the next 153 days, the Cashman Center will welcome about 85,000 bowlers from across the country.
In it’s first time back to Vegas in 17 years, the Open Championships started with the Vegas flair, including a visit from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and a performance from Terry Fator, winner of America’s Got Talent and entertainer at the Mirage.
“This is one of our best opening ceremonies ever,” said Brian Lewis, director of USBC Championships. “The electricity of Vegas was in the air.”
The Championships will take place every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. until July 24, and includes team, doubles and individual events. Each team gets one chance to bowl and post a score, and then the team with the top scores at the end of the 154-day event takes home the prize. The USBC has a pool of about $7 million to give out, with the top team taking home $50,000.
The Open Championships rotate cities every year and it last came to Vegas in 1986.
Goodman celebrated Las Vegas’ hosting of the event, saying the influx of visitors will help the Vegas economy. To show his excitement about the event, Goodman gave USBC president Jeff Boje the key to the city, while Boje gave Goodman a bowling ball that looks like an olive because of Goodman’s love for martinis.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Goodman said. “It’s like having a championship boxing match every night.”
The Championships were open to any team who wanted to sign up and pay the entry fee, and it will attract bowlers from all 50 states and some foreign counties.
“We try to come every year,” said Jeff Deaton, from Mason, Ohio. “It’s just a weekend to get away. Anytime we bowl good, that’s an added bonus.”
During the opening ceremonies, the USBC randomly selected Deaton’s teammate, Roger Hutchison, to serve as “Joe Bowler.” Hutchison received a king’s treatment, given a crown, robe and great seat for the festivities
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Hutchison said. “I was shocked when I found out it was me.”
To make Vegas suitable for the event, the USBC had to transform the Cashman Center into a 60-lane bowling alley. During the opening ceremony the USBC unveiled it’s new scoreboard, which stretches the length of the convention center and lists every player’s name and score. The scoreboard is the longest mobile scoreboard of it’s kind in the world, Lewis said. Investing in the new scoreboard was part of the effort to enhance the overall experience for the participants.
“This gives all the bowlers the chance to bowl on the grand stage,” Lewis said.