AP NEWS

Nebraska bowling centers offer cosmic bowling on weekends

April 7, 2019

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — On Friday and Saturday nights, bowling is louder, darker and more colorful than it is the rest of the week. The bowling center also has a certain glow about it.

Like many other bowling houses nationwide, Super Bowl and Westside Lanes draw good crowds on the weekends with cosmic bowling, The Grand Island Independent reported.

When bowling goes cosmic, the lights are turned off and the music is turned up. The presence of disco lights might remind you of Donna Summer singing, “Dim all the lights sweet darling.” Dancing isn’t required, but it wouldn’t be out of place, especially if you just got a strike.

The presence of black light makes some things glow, such as colors on the carpet or apparel. Sometimes, the bowling balls, lanes and bowling pins become luminous.

Super Bowl offers cosmic bowling Friday and Saturdays beginning at 6 p.m. At Westside, the lights go down at 9 p.m. Saturdays. After that bowling center’s remodeling is complete, bowlers will enter the cosmic world on both Fridays and Saturdays.

Super Bowl co-owner Geo Overfield said cosmic bowling is “our main bread and butter right now.” Even during the summer months, which are traditionally a downtime for bowling, “we do stay busy with cosmic bowling,” Overfield said.

“Whoever invented cosmic bowling kept bowling centers in business,” he said. “Nationwide, it’s been real important.”

Overfield believes the cosmic effect gives a bowling center a nightclub feel. You can’t find an atmosphere like that anywhere else, he said.

At Super Bowl, cosmic bowling runs until midnight on Fridays and 1 a.m. on Saturdays. Later in the evening, “we kind of get our second rush,” consisting of adults.

He thinks that bowling centers have to change with the times. Super Bowl’s after-school bowling club used to have kids do “real constructive scorekeeping.” But they weren’t really interested.

“Just like anything, when the public tastes change, we’ve got to change with it,” Overfield said.

Not only have the public’s tastes changed, but “they have better technology.” Nowadays, you can have an 80-inch television screen at home.

“We’re always making changes for the good to keep the public satisfied,” he said.

Westside co-owner Jerry Pomplun has big plans for cosmic bowling as well as many other parts of the bowling center.

He plans to add many colored lights and strobe lights, which will flash in rhythm with the music. There is already an ultraviolet effect in the lanes. “So they do glow when we turn the black lights on,” he said.

Westside also has bowling pins that react to ultraviolet light. That feature now comes in most bowling pins sold, he said.

Pomplun and Galen Keas bought Westside Lanes a little less than a year ago. Their extensive remodeling is being done in two phases, one of which is completed.

Westside’s new cosmic effects will be introduced this summer. “We’re going to really upgrade it,” Pomplun said.

Pomplun, 60, lives in Broken Bow, where he operated the bowling center for many years. Keas lives in Alda.

The new owners have installed a new scoring system, new flooring and 42-inch monitors. The bathrooms have been redone. A toddler room will be added.

You can now buy soda and alcohol in the middle of the bowling center. Pomplun likes to see adults sitting at the nearby tables while other family members are having fun elsewhere.

He wants people to feel comfortable, as if they’re sitting in a big living room.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, bowling was more about competition than recreation. Now the emphasis is more on recreation. Pomplun, who got into the bowling business in 1978, saw the shift coming 20 years ago.

To operate successfully today, a bowling center has to put more emphasis on recreation and family fun, he said. There’s still a call for the competitive aspect of bowling, but it’s less than it used to be, Pomplun said.

At Westside, “We’re going to pay attention to the competitive part and the recreational part,” Pomplun said.

Pomplun expects many groups to rent the Huddle Lounge, which is being improved, for receptions and private parties.

“Grand Island has 100 bars,” he said. “We don’t need another one. But they do need reception places and rental places.”

The Huddle will continue to serve as a lounge at certain times, such as when the women’s state tournament comes to town. But Pomplun plans to rent it out a lot.

The food service is now provided by Henry Rathjen, who used to operate the Concession Stand at Conestoga Mall.

Pomplun will invite local high schools to create murals on the bowling center’s side walls. Above the 28 lanes will be an elaborate mural showcasing the highlights of Nebraska.

On summer evenings, an outdoor volleyball league keeps things busy at Westside. Last year, 85 teams competed on the two sand volleyball courts outside. A beer shack is provided for those players.

Super Bowl is owned by Geo Overfield, 38, and his father, who’s typically known as Super George or Big George. The elder Overfield is 73.

The two Overfields bought out a partner 15 years ago. Their mother, Debbie, is also a valuable part of the business.

Even without cosmic bowling, Super Bowl is busy on Sundays. “We do a lot of family bowling on Sunday evening,” Overfield said.

Over the past 10 years, the number of league bowlers hasn’t grown or shrunk at Super Bowl. League participation is a lot less than it was 20 years ago. “But we’re pretty stable now,” Overfield said.

Those league members are “very loyal bowlers,” he said. “We try our best to cater to every single one of those guys, and they’re family. They become family that way.”

Super Bowl isn’t “making millions of dollars,” but it does well enough, Overfield said.

“We’re a community bowling center,” he said. “We’ve outlasted a lot of other businesses in town. That’s for sure.”

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com