Syracuse sports history was made at the Oncenter the evening of April 27 when Missy Parkin of Lake Forest, Calif., was crowned the United States Bowling Congress Queens champion. While the event was broadcast live on ESPN2, the first bowling event ever presented in high definition, according to announcer Dave Lamont, viewers didn’t get much of a look at the spectacular transformation of the Oncenter with the action concentrated on just the two lanes used in the competition.
Visitors to the facility will notice immediately that the 48 shiny new alleys installed for the Women’s Open that has taken Syracuse by storm since April 7 are actually upstaged by the eye-popping digital billboard that stretches the entire length of the room above the pins. Faux magazine titles provide the decorating theme, with displays of covers of such fictionalized publications as Bowl Appetite, Vanity Pair and Bowling Stone shining from the screen.
Competitors boogie into the arena to a deafening dance track from the nightclubquality sound system that also provides accompaniment for sponsor commercials. The national anthem, complete with flashes of colorful video fireworks, precedes each round of competition before the screen is converted into a scoreboard with all individual bowler and team scores projected above their lane.
It’s a glitzy and flamboyant scene rarely associated with the venerable sport of tenpins, but this is no ordinary bowling event. It’s the big business of the sport with plenty of hype and glamour. USBC has set up a gift and souvenir boutique, a pro shop and snack and cocktail bars near the lanes.
After her victory over top-seeded Pennsylvanian Elysia Current, Parkin was actually crowned with a tiara in honor of her ascension to Queen champ, a quaint tradition that is consistent with the feminized environment during which the athletes, many wearing pink, purple or teal shirts, are often referred to as “ladies.”
Although only serious keglers would have understood much of the analysis offered by former pro bowler and ESPN color commentator Chris Barnes, watching a national sports broadcast from Syracuse that didn’t feature athletes in Orange uniforms was a rare treat. Scenes from Clinton Square and some very favorable publicity for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que shown during breaks can only lead to good things for the Salt City.
Pin city: The Oncenter’s transformation into kegler central comes complete with punny, bowling-themed takes on national magazines.