COVID-19 has hurt many businesses, but for Big Country Lanes Family Bowling Centre it’s given them much-needed time to fix the place up and enhance it for the coming season.
The bowling lane is owned and operated by Larry Richet and his wife Sherree, both of whom are passionate, lifelong bowlers. They bought the centre, where they also live, almost five years ago when it was pretty beat up, Larry recalls.
Over the last four years they’ve been working to fix it up and increase the community’s interest in bowling. They’ve been quite successful, as the number of bowling leagues that run out of the centre has increased from just one to seven this year, with an eighth likely starting up in the coming season. “We’re filling up and it’s growing like crazy and the people of 100 Mile are loving having the bowling alley again,” Larry says.
While COVID-19 ended their usual season early and cancelled Bowl For Kids Sake, the popular Big Brother and Big Sisters of Williams Lake fundraiser, it also provided Larry with extra time to make some much-needed quality of life improvements around the centre.
The biggest change by far that he has made is choosing to completely replace the wood of the bowling lanes, which had become worn out from far more traffic on them than he had thought they were going to get. While Larry had hoped they would be able to get another year out of them, he said they were pretty well worn down to the nails, which were fouling the shots of some bowlers.
“We’re using a synthetic overlay [for the lanes], so they basically sand and re-level all of the lanes and make sure they’re 100 per cent, within a 4oth of a millimetre, and then they put down 7/16-inch synthetic overlay over top of it,” Larry explains.
“It looks just like wood but it’s a little shinier and a little slipperier and very durable. It’s good for basically 25 years. This place is going to be a bowling alley for a few years yet, which is good for everybody in 100 Mile.”
With the new synthetic alley, he says people should see their averages for games increase across the board. People like to have fun when they come to a bowling lane, Larry observes, and a better game leads to more fun.
In addition to the new lanes, Larry said they’ve refaced the front of the building, repaved the sidewalk, and repainted virtually everything there is to paint inside the building. They’re working on rebuilding the picket fence that rings the back of the building, and will be repainting the back of the building at some point over the summer. This will be wrapped up just in time for the start of the 2020/2021 leagues, which begins on the September long weekend.
Larry says that the Tuesday Night League will begin on the Tuesday following the long weekend (Sept. 8), followed by the Thursday Afternoon League, Thursday Night League, Saturday Morning YBC League for children, Sunday Afternoon League, Sunday Night League and the Special Olympics League. Monday will remain the only day the centre is closed, with bowling taking place pretty well every other day.
An eight-week league that is usually held during the spring will also take place this season, but has been moved to the fall, on Wednesdays through September and October. It’s a no-tap league, which means that if on your first ball you knock down nine of the 10 pins you get an automatic strike.
Anyone looking to bowl or sign up for one of the leagues can do so by contacting Larry or Sherree at 778-482-5002 and leaving a message if they don’t pick up.
“We welcome old and new to the bowling centre,” Larry says. “We have some people in their 80s and 90s and we have a lot of younger people from five years old right up to 18 years old. They’re all welcome on Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoons.”
When it comes to COVID-19 precautions, Larry says they have modified a few things to make sure people are safe. They will have the basics like hand sanitizer, extra cleaning, COVID-19 signs, and other precautions. When it comes to handling the bowling balls themselves, the plan is to have each bowler pick out two balls to use, which will then be cleaned after they finish before being put back into circulation.
When it comes to gathering restrictions, Larry says the centre falls well within the limit of 50 people in a single meeting place, as even if they had five people on a team and all eight lanes in use, they’d only have a total of 40 people. When it comes to the leagues, he’s not too concerned about COVID-19, as most of the people in them are from the area and so far cases in 100 Mile House have been zip, as he puts it. For open play, however, he’ll be keeping every second lane empty to space people out as much as possible.
“That’s the nice thing about bowling: at open play, it’s always like that, with people coming in at different times.”