Tourism officials in Reno are rolling out the bowling lanes themselves for the national U.S. Women’s Open and the millions of dollars that hundreds of bowlers are bringing with them.
They hope the attention to the temporary, outdoor lanes beneath the city’s famous arch will translate into piles of green at the blackjack tables, slot machines and restaurants inside the air-conditioned hotel-casinos.
Preliminary competition for the 2012 Bowling’s U.S. Women’s Open and first-ever Senior Women’s Open began Thursday at the National Bowling Stadium, a few blocks from the arch that proclaims Reno the “Biggest Little City in the World.”
By the time a national champ is crowned beneath the familiar landmark June 27, tourism officials anticipate a $2.3 million boost to the local economy in just a week’s time. That total climbs to $11 million when combined with the Bowling Proprietors Association of America International Bowl Expo at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, south of downtown.
And that doesn’t include any of the more than $50 million in direct and indirect impacts from the three-monthlong U.S. Bowling Congress Women’s Championship that began in April and ends July 8, according to the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.
The outdoor competition has helped shine a spotlight on the economic significance of a sport in a town that was the backdrop for the 1996 movie “Kingpin,” starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and Bill Murray.
The top five women finalists among the 300 bowlers in the U.S. Open will compete Wednesday evening on four lanes set up under the arch on Virginia Street, which closes to traffic at 6 a.m. Monday. A perfect game in the finals is worth $1 million. ESPN2 is taping the event for replay the evening of July 3.
“I don’t think it can get any better than that, especially under the Reno Arch,” said Mayor Bob Cashell, who welcomes all visitors to the tourism-dependent state slower than most to recover from the recession.
“Reno loves its bowlers and this shows their commitment,” added RSCVA boss Chris Baum. “It’s a pretty compelling case that this is the bowling headquarters of the U.S.”
Steve Johnson, the executive director of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America who came up with idea of taking the finals outdoors, goes a step further.
“I would have to call Reno the bowling capitol of the world,” said Johnson, whose previous jobs included promoting CART auto racing series events around the world.
“Most cities, when you bring in a sporting event or any big event, they roll out the red carpet for you and as you leave, they are rolling it up right behind you,” he said. “But the city of Reno has the red carpet out for all our bowlers and the industry all the time.”
Stefani Nation, a former world champion and top contender this season, said the bowlers notice, too.
“Everybody we encounter is so welcoming,” she said. “You really don’t get that everywhere you go.”