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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
With an eye on the bottom line, Golden Valley is hoping an ancient but trendy game will boost revenues at Brookview Community Center and golf course.
The city is building a lawn bowling area near the center, with greens that are expected to open in August. Though the playing area is still under construction, the city is already seeing interest, said Rick Birno, director of parks and recreation.
Lawn bowling teams have begun calling about league play, and Birno said another audience is interested: corporate and education groups that rent the community center for retreats and meetings.
"Many corporate groups come in and say, 'Do you have anything for nongolfers?' " Birno said. "We didn't really plan on that part of the business, but at these meetings and events there is education in the morning and light activity over the lunch hour. Now there's an opportunity for nongolfers."
In the metro area, Brit's Pub in downtown Minneapolis is the hot spot for bowling. The greens are on the roof of the building and the wait for teams to join the pub's leagues is 10 years, according to Brit's website.
Edina put lawn bowling greens at Centennial Lakes Park in 1997 and may be the only other area city offering groomed lawn bowling rinks. But the Edina park lacks something that is considered critical to drawing league play, which tends to be a highly social event: a liquor license that allows wine and regular beer sales.
Golden Valley is trying to get state approval to have Brookview's liquor license changed to allow such sales. The community center is at 200 Brookview Pkwy.
Birno said it was his own experience bowling at Brit's that made him think of the sport as city staff discussed ways to diversify revenue at the golf course.
"We believe it's a growing market," he said. "We thought running leagues and having hourly rentals might be nice amenities to add to the golf course."
He said adding lawn bowling is efficient, too, because the bowling greens can be maintained by golf staff who are already on site.
Lawn bowling is played on 120-foot-long "rinks." Players roll balls, or "bowls," trying to get them as close as possible to a small white ball (the jack) near the other end of the rink. The bowls are shaped to break one way or another as they travel down the rink, depending on how they're rolled.
Golden Valley will supply all equipment. For public, nonleague play, people will pay $20 per hour for a rink. Those funds will be used to pay the cost of building the bowling green. Once those expenses are covered, the money will go back into the golf operation, Birno said.
For Edina, lawn bowling has not been a huge moneymaker, said Centennial Lakes Park Manager Tom Shirley. The greens at Centennial Lakes brought in $7,500 last year, just enough to break even and pay for mowing, fertilizing and watering.
A league played in Edina for a while, but it died out after the primary organizer moved, Shirley said. Corporate groups use the greens, as do families that play regularly. Edina's greens are usually booked a month in advance, but without the lure of booze as a feature for league play, few people play more than once a week, Shirley said.
"It's a very social game and people enjoy it, but it's really tough to get them to come two or three times a week," he said. The city has explored liquor sales, but there's reluctance to do that at the park, he said.
Birno hopes leagues are attracted to the Golden Valley rinks. Already, he said, people from out-of-state have called about the golf course's new feature.
"We've had calls from Wisconsin and Colorado, and meeting planners from New York," he said. "Folks seem just thrilled that we're adding this amenity."
ABOUT LAWN BOWLING
Lawn bowling games take place on 120-foot-long "rinks." Players roll balls called "bowls," trying to get them as close as possible to a white ball called the jack, near the other end of the rink. The bowls are shaped to break one way or another as they travel down the rink, depending on how they're rolled.
Mary Jane Smetanka · 612-673-7380