Cosmic style adds twist to bowling

by Kathryn Herzog

Bowling alleys conjure up images of what is becoming a bygone American pastime: The thud of the ball hitting the lane; the gleam of the freshly polished wood floor; the thunder of ball colliding with pins; and the squeaking of sensible shoes on tile.
But at bowling alleys like the University’s Coffman Gopher Game Room, now glittering disco balls and haze-producing fog machines are the prevailing style.
This is bowling in the 90s. It’s called cosmic bowling, a new twist on an old game that some say is becoming the country’s hottest new entertainment for late-night crowds.
For Heather Moreau, a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, cosmic bowling is right up her alley.
“When I think of bowling, I think of old men drinking beer, but this is much better,” said Moreau. “This is more like a club scene but with more to do than just dance.”
Moreau joined a group of about 50 students from various fraternities and sororities Wednesday for weekly bowling outings. For many, it was their first cosmic experience.
While squinting through rainbows of lights, bowlers attempt to knock down luminescent pins on glowing lane surfaces of eerie shades of lavender.
Long-time bowler and Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity member Trevor Dickie said bowling in the dark takes getting used to, but the scores don’t really matter.
“I’m usually pretty serious when I bowl,” said Dickie. “But here you don’t bowl to get a high score, you just want to have a good time.”
At Stardust Bowling Lanes in Minneapolis, patrons, waiting for their turns spend as much time dancing as they do bowling.
Owners Dick and Bob Tuttle said people who enjoy the sport but don’t want to join a league will find an alternative in cosmic bowling.
“It’s definitely not your normal bowling atmosphere,” said Bob Tuttle. “But league bowling has declined over the years and so we thought we would make things more fun for people.”
According to the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America, league bowling dropped by 40 percent between 1980 and 1993, forcing alley owners to pull in new audiences, specifically young adults.
And that’s exactly what they did. Designed to attract people who see the sport as an opportunity for socializing rather than participating in a competitive sport, cosmic bowling has given the alleys a striking new look.
Scott Storm, assistant manager of Brunswick Eden Prairie Lanes, said the excitement begins when the fog rolls out over the lanes.
Storm said bowlers at his center can expect at least a 45-minute wait on weekends to score a lane, but the center is already planning to expand its cosmic hours.
“A lot of people are telling us they’ve never had so much fun bowling,” said Storm. “So many people have requested more cosmic bowling nights that were starting an in-house cosmic bowling league.”
Hailed as the first innovation in the sport since the arrival of automated scoring, bowling equipment manufacturer Brunswick Corp. takes credit for in 1995 initiating the craze. Other centers were quick to jump on the flashy bandwagon.
Event coordinators of the Coffman Gopher Game Room are offering a night of free cosmic bowling on Wednesday night to give University students a chance to try out the fad.
“The days of plain bowling alleys that offer standard bowling are almost all gone,” said Storm. “It’s something you’ve got to experience yourself.”