Laser bowling

March 20, 1997

Blacklit, glow-in-the-dark atmosphere adds striking dimension to an old sport


Staff Writer

Some bowlers are prone to do a little dance when they get a "turkey," or three strikes in a row.

But late on a Friday or Saturday night at Long Meadow Bowl on Leitersburg Pike bowlers can be found doing the chicken, the Macarena or any number of other line dances while laser lights flash, music blares and fog rolls across the lanes.

The bowlers are gyrating, swaying, clapping and, almost coincidentally, also throwing the ball and hitting the pins, in a blacklit, festive, glow-in-the-dark atmosphere.


It's called "laser bowling" and it's loud, fluorescent and gaining popularity.

"Basically it's a show. It's like a nightclub with bowling," Long Meadow Bowl General Manager Chris Nauman said.

The concept of laser bowling started in Los Angeles, Calif., about two years ago and has spread east, Nauman said.

"I think it's a great idea. I think it adds a new dimension to bowling," patron Chris Russ, 35, of Hagerstown, said. "It gives (young people) a chance to come out and bowl and dance at the same time."

"It makes it like more fun. Regular bowling you go and it's boring," said Kristi McNew, 21, of Chambersburg.

The phenomenon takes a whole new approach to an old sport, encouraging distractions rather than trying to limit them.

"I like it very much. I'm not a real good bowler so it doesn't matter," Shirley Mentzer, 36, of Hagerstown, said.

More than 200 black lights were installed in the bowling alley, and a disc jockey was hired to spin tunes for laser bowling, which began at Long Meadow Bowl Dec. 27, Nauman said.

The special effects, which bowling alley owner Frank Turner said he invested more than $40,000 in, seem to be paying off.

"We've been sold out every single night we've been open," Nauman said. "We're starting to see a lot of new faces."

Long Meadow Bowl offers laser bowling every Friday and Saturday night, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., he said. All of the alley's 33 lanes often are reserved by 10:30 p.m.

Patrons pay an $8 admission fee, which covers all their bowling, plus $1.25 if they need to rent bowling shoes, Nauman said.

Laser bowling has attracted teenagers and adults in their 20s and 30s, helping to introduce a whole new generation to bowling, he said.

"It's something to do," said Brian Newcomer, 21. "I'm from Chambersburg (Pa.) and there's really not much to do up there. And the bars up there are scary. So it's nice to come down here and bowl and be able to drink."

"We've had nothing but praise from the parents. I like it because it's clean fun. We have security there. We've never had a fight or anyone disorderly," said Turner who has been in the bowling business since 1952 and was a duck pin pro bowler.

Security staff are highly visible, wearing headphones and monitoring the flow of people through the doors.

"They need to start this at all the bowling alleys up here. This is great," said Katie Cost, of Hagerstown.

"I like how the lights are," said her 12-year-old daughter, Toni Olszewski, between dances.

"It's fun. They play good music," Zack Stull, 10, of St. Thomas, Pa., observed.

Even the corporate world has not been spared from laser bowling.

A few weeks ago First Data Merchant Services rented the alley between 9:30 p.m. and midnight for about 250 of its employees to try laser bowling, Nauman said.

"It was really a lot of fun," First Data employee and event organizer Debbie Swaim said.

Laser bowling also attracts spectators.

"I just came to see the spectacle," Lawrence Angle, 27, of Hagerstown, said on a recent Friday night. "I think it's hilarious."

Turner has plans to expand laser bowling to other nights, with themes such as music of the 1950s and 1960s and country music, he said.

A laser bowling league also is forming, Nauman said.

Pikeside Bowl in Martinsburg, W.Va., which Turner also owns, will begin offering laser bowling March 26.

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