Smoking ban expected to broaden bowling’s appeal
By Steve T. Gorches 648-3141 or email@example.com June 19, 2012 11:30PM
More Northwest Indiana residents are trying to quit smoking in the last two years, and the statewide smoking ban likely is part of the reason. | Andy Lavalley~Post-Tribune
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:21AM
Highland resident Dusty Payne has found plenty of reasons to smile during his long bowling career.
He’s won multiple Greater Calumet Area Bowling Association tournament titles. He’s rolled multiple award scores over the years — most recently a 300 game on Feb. 1 at Stardust Bowl II in Hobart.
But when the subject of the upcoming Indiana smoking ban was brought up, it elicited maybe the biggest smile yet.
“I have trouble breathing some bowling nights and my wife makes me take a shower when I get home because of the smell of smoke,” said Payne, who’s had two sons bowl for the Highland High School program. “I hate the way I smell after bowling.
“I bowled at Lynwood Bowl (in Illinois) last year and I wouldn’t come home with a headache.”
The coach of Payne’s sons, Claude Jackson, has been bowling for 43 years and he couldn’t be happier about the smoking ban that will take effect on July 1 across the state.
“I bowled at LanOak Lanes (in Lansing, Ill.) for the first time and you definitely don’t miss (the smoking),” said the man known as “CJ” to friends and parents of the numerous kids he’s coached at Highland and in Plaza’s youth leagues. “It’s not something you have to have to bowl. I’ve been around high school bowling for 13 years and on Saturday mornings (when no smoking is allowed) and you just don’t need it around.”
Older bowlers aren’t the only ones looking forward to the ban.
“I think there are more pros than cons, and it will help with leagues,” said Hobart High School graduate and Calumet College student Josh Bailey. “I think it’s great.”
It’s a brave new world in a state with a large sanctioned bowling contingent. Northwest Indiana’s more than 20 bowling centers in five counties are in a unique position of being near a pair of states that already have smoking bans in place. Illinois’ four-year-old ban has helped Lake County centers such as Stardust III in Dyer and Olympia Lanes in Hammond, while Michigan’s two-year-old ban affects LaPorte County and other northern Indiana centers.
Now Indiana joins those two states, as well as Wisconsin and Ohio, in what has become a largely smoke-free Midwest.
The actual bill passed by the Indiana House and Senate earlier this year goes by the name of House Enrolled Act (HEA) No. 1149. It prohibits smoking in any public place or place of employment, and within eight feet of a public entrance to any of those places.
Some of the outcry over the new bill stems from its many exemptions — horse racing facilities, casinos, cigar and hookah bars, certain fraternal clubs (VFW, American Legion, FOP, Elks), retail tobacco stores, cigar manufacturing facilities, cigar specialty stores, businesses in private residences and bars or taverns meeting certain requirements.
That last exemption has several bowling centers either confused or up in arms.
Bowling center bars or lounges are not exempt. In fact, any bar located under the roof of another non-exempt business (restaurant or mall) is not exempt. This will affect some local bowling centers more than others.
“Will it bring in more families for open bowling? Yeah, sure, but with my bar, you can go a block or two to an exempt bar,” said Mark Millsap, owner of Ray’s Lanes on Central Avenue in Lake Station.
One possible option for a smaller center such as Ray’s or Cressmoor Lanes in Hobart is to make the whole business a bar, with the bowling lanes a side part of the facility.
Millsap said he looked into that possibility, but the downside would be not having his Saturday youth leagues since minors would not be allowed in the building.
“I don’t like the bad reputation bowling has gotten with smoking and drinking being linked to it, but bowling has changed,” Millsap said, referring to the family atmosphere the sport has embraced in the last decade.
Cressmoor doesn’t have youth leagues, but owner Jim Fowble said he’s not thinking about that option, either.
“I’m just going to obey the law, but I don’t agree with it,” said Fowble, a hall of fame bowler who doesn’t smoke. “I’m a nonsmoker, but having clean ashtrays doesn’t bother me one way or the other. It might hurt (the bowling) business a little, but not a lot.”
Also an accomplished hall of fame bowler, Millsap, on the other hand, smokes regularly and is worried about his business, and not just from the lounge standpoint.
“I have four or five teams in our Thursday Fire (mixed) league that have told me they might not be coming back,” he said. “It’s a fun league with a lot of people who come to smoke and drink, and bowling is an added part of it. If they can’t smoke, they could just go down the street (to a bar).
“I believe it’s against my civil and constitutional rights to tell me people can’t smoke here. It’s my business so I should be able to make it smoking or nonsmoking. It’s your choice to come here or not.”
He appears to be in the minority among region center managers and bowlers.
“I believe smoking infringes on my rights as a nonsmoker,” Payne said.
Added Plaza Lanes manager Timm Sieber: “I think it will attract a more social market. If you’re an avid bowler and like bowling, you’ll keep bowling.”
Plaza has already set up an alternative for its smoking clientele. It removed the old pinsetting machine at the right side of the main entrance and put in a “smoking bus stop.” It’s a new covered entrance to allow smokers an area at least eight feet from the door without getting moisture on their shoes.
Westchester Lanes in Chesterton is building a 13-by-50-foot patio extension to its lounge in the front of the center, which can serve as an open-air smoking area for bowlers.
“We were going to do it anyway, but we hurried it up because of the smoking ban,” said Westchester co-owner Tony Ello. “We haven’t heard that we’re losing any bowlers because of the ban.”
Olympia Lanes hasn’t decided if it will have a similar area, but the 40-lane center already took the initiative and went nonsmoking with the start of its summer leagues in May.
“Honestly, during the day about 90 percent of our seniors don’t smoke,” Olympia manager Mike Kozy said. “At night a lot of our clientele are from Illinois, so they’re used to it.”
One possible result of the ban could be an addendum to league rules, which happened in Wisconsin after its smoking law began two years ago.
“A lot of our proprietors and league secretaries have put into their by-laws something to allow extra time in between games for smokers,” said Wisconsin State Bowling Association manager Philip LaPorte, who has been a bowler for 51 years. “We had to allow more time between squads for our state tournament. I’d say 1-in-10 smoke now when it was 3-in-10 two years ago.”
Another part of the bowling community that is looking forward to the law — and one of the main reasons for such legislation — are the workers.
“The majority of our employees are happy because most don’t smoke,” Stardust III manager Shaun Ciesielski said. “I actually have to redo our break schedule, but that’s OK.”
Ciesielski almost followed the lead of Olympia by going nonsmoking to start the summer, but he decided “not to mess with it,” since most have the July 1 date in their heads.
“In our leagues, there’s maybe only one or two bowlers per team who smoke now,” he said. “I don’t think it will affect our business. In fact, I’ve heard more positives than negatives. It will definitely help open play, for sure.”
Some owners and managers do see one possible issue with the new ban — enforcement.
“I can see something like in high school, with bowlers sneaking into the boys room to get a smoke and see if you get caught,” Kozy said.
According to the new law, anyone from state and local health departments to fire departments to state and local police departments can enforce the law, but citizens will be counted on to basically tattle on smokers.
And with more families and more current league bowlers than ever on the nonsmoking side, the citizen smoking police could be out in full force.