HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The recreational and competitive sport of bowling is celebrated this year on Aug. 12 with National Bowling Day, but ABC North in Harrisburg supports bowling enthusiasts year-round.
“I just think that ABC lanes, with all three of our centers, give everybody in central Pennsylvania a really good place to go,” said the manager of ABC North Lanes Earl Burger.
Burger has worked with ABC Lanes for 48 years and has been able to see generations of bowlers emerge. There are families that bowl at ABC North that consist of five generations that all participate together.
“Bowling is not dead, because you can bowl at any age,” Bruger said. “There’s no other sport around that you can participate with five generations . . . there’s no other one that I know of.”
The age range of participants was on display on July 27 at 10 a.m. as ABC North was bustling with energy. At the far left of the lanes was a group of female bowlers who bowl every Thursday morning and consist of mostly older adults who are part of leagues during the bowling season.
At the far right of the lanes was a bouncing group of children from a summer camp. In the middle were Shirley and Dick Borger, a couple who are grandparents that bowl together every Thursday, and a duo of middle-aged mailmen who bowl in between their shifts for the day.
“I retired and decided that I wanted to keep bowling, so I investigated,” said Sheryl Saxe-Downing, a member of the women’s bowling group. “I had another friend who retired about the same time, and we decided to come over and try and join a women’s league, which we did on Thursday mornings. That was over 10 years ago.”
ABC Lanes has programs to support all ages. They are a part of the National Kids Bowl Free group, which allows people to sign their children who are 15 years old and younger up to bowl two free games a day throughout the summer. ABC Lanes also offers Saturday morning youth programs.
Last year, the Saturday morning program brought in 93 children and two of the bowlers that participated went on to have success in their respective high school bowling competitions. A freshman at Central Dauphin East, Rayana Gonzalez, finished first in the state tournament, beating all of the seniors. Cameron Wegert won the district three boys high school bowling championship and finished second in the state tournament.
The Harrisburg Area Interscholastic Bowling League also competes on Thursdays at ABC Lanes from the end of October until the end of December.
ABC Lanes even offer bumper bowling for their younger participants, truly giving everyone the ability to experience bowling.
“We bend over backwards for kids and if somebody needs help, even if it’s bowling help, like ‘How do I know what weight ball I should throw?’, we just dive in and help them with that,” Burger said.
Although ABC Lanes are doing great now with all of its programs, they suffered from COVID, like most businesses and the family-owned bowling lanes lost about a million dollars from having to shut down.
“When they shut us down over Christmas, New Years that one year, that really hurt because New Years Eve is probably our biggest income day for bowling for family that there is,” Burger said.
Then, something exciting happened when ABC Lanes reopened.
“When we reopened after that, bowling just took off because people realized that it was local, they could afford it, it was close,” Burger said. “Last year was probably our best year companywide that we had and then we were able to reinvest.”
ABC Lanes switched to automatic scoring, and they got new seating and flooring. ABC Lanes does all of this because they want their patrons to have the best bowling experience possible, said Burger.
“We hope they have a good time because that means they’ll come back,” Burger said. “[We want them] to know when they come in that they can get a fair price for what they’re paying for and have a good time for the amount of time they’re here.”
ABC Lanes knows bowling is meant for anyone of any age and ability and they want to continue to make the sport accessible to all. They run specials multiple days a week which decrease the cost of a game and understand the needs of their different clientele. They know league bowlers are more competitive and take bowling as a sport seriously, whereas casual bowlers who come in with friends and family may not care how many pins they knock down.
ABC Lanes try to provide something for every bowler, with a bar for those who are over 21 and looking for a casual night out, which is isolated from where children would be. They also have a shop with balls and shoes for serious bowlers to find new gear and they have a mini arcade for the kids who might not be able to sit still while waiting for their turn to bowl.
They offer something for all in order to introduce everyone to the joy of bowling.
To continue this mission, ABC Lanes are having a buy one, get one free promotion for National Bowling Day on Aug. 12.
“I just hope that if they haven’t bowled in a while, it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s get a group of friends and find a time and let’s just go have a good time’,” Burger said. “It’s one of the few things that they can still do as a group, and it doesn’t matter what your ability is. You can still have a good time.”
ABC Lanes has two locations in Harrisburg, including Burger’s ABC North Lanes on Locust Lane and ABC East Lanes on Eisenhower Boulevard. Their third location, ABC West Lanes, is in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.