Tenpins & More proprietor Steve Mackie may have been the happiest man in town when he heard the governor finally relaxed restrictions on his business and started preparing for the opening.
Used to being last in so many categories, New Mexico’s bowling centers were the last in the nation allowed to open; the 49th state to receive the go-ahead, Michigan, was allowed to open its bowling centers on Sept. 7.
Outside of the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula, bowling alleys and centers had been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. An executive order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stated, “bowling alleys, roller rinks and ice rinks may be open for the sole purpose of serving as a venue for organized sports”.
But, Mackie noted, only 49 states have active bowling: Just weeks, and in some cases days, after reopening doors following a prolonged closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of California’s bowling centers on Sept. 9 were ordered to shut down again by its governor.
The order, according to bowlersjournal.com, was the result of what some have called “knucklehead behavior” by certain people who refused to wear masks in public or adhere to social distancing guidelines. It applies to 19 counties that account for nearly 75 percent of the state’s population, and also targets movie theaters, bars and indoor restaurant dining.
Tenpins & More is now open to 25 percent capacity.
“That’s 86 people,” Mackie said, and COVID-19 guidelines are in effect, including maintaining six feet between bowlers for social distancing, and restrictions on how close people get to the counter and keeping bowlers apart on the lanes.
“I spent four grand ($4,000) on COVID stuff,” he said. He also bought a couple dozen of new “house” balls, for beginners, newbies to the sport, people who forgot their own balls, etc.
Of course, in what is a difference from other sports using balls, bowlers only use their own bowling balls; football, baseball, softball and volleyball players, for example, share the same ball when it’s in play.
“(We went) 185 days without bowling,” Mackie said, estimating that it cost him over $700,000.
Fortunately, he said, “I got a PPP (Payback Protection Program) loan and most of (that debt) is forgiven. And I got a $10,000 grant from the City of Rio Rancho and some vendors have given me credit. … (and) the mayor (Gregg Hull) was instrumental in helping us get (a grant).”
Bowling is a lifetime sport, he added, and, “A lot of people were praying and giving us advice.”
“I got really tired of being a ‘non-essential’ business,” he said. “Bowling couldn’t have last 125 years if not essential.”
He’s not sure when the annual New Mexico Open, held at Tenpins & More every August but postponed this year, will be held.
“There are 223 bowlers still signed up,” he said, for an apparently essential event.
The future’s bright for the Rio Rancho center, Mackie said.
“It’s always bright; I’m the eternal optimist. As long as you keep your head above water, it’ll be OK.”
•Fall leagues are starting soon and some are already underway; call Tenpins & More at 892-7117 or send Mackie and his staff an email at email@example.com for more information.