EL PASO, Texas — The sound of rolling thunder in this border city’s convention center signals that the conference venue has once again been transformed into a bowler’s paradise for the 2015 USBC Open Championships.
With the tournament in full swing, the United States Bowling Congress expects more than 7,000 teams – bringing about 100,000 visitors all told – to visit El Paso throughout the 128 days of competition from March 7 to July 12. This is the first time in the tournament’s 112-year history that it will be hosted in El Paso, following the USBC Women’s Championships that was held here in 2010.
Albert Williams Jr., from Prince George, Virginia, a first-time tournament participant, said he was pleasantly surprised with the unique venue.
“I knew El Paso was out here, but I didn’t think that there would be anything here big enough to host this kind of event. However, after seeing everything and looking around the city I was surprised how everything worked out and It’s been a very fun experience,” he said.
It took construction workers 45 days to transform the Judson F. Williams Convention Center in Downtown El Paso into a 62-lane bowling complex. There are 52 lanes for competition and ten lanes for practice. The center also set up office and vendor spaces, lockers, a squad room, seating for spectators and concessions. It also houses a shipping facility that provides delivery service for bowlers to ship their bowling balls to the venue and back home again.
“It’s really a bigger thing than most people realize,” said USBC Public Relations Manager Matt Canizzaro. “And the fact that it’s so big and built from scratch, it gave us the opportunity to support the local community by purchasing all the materials to actually build everything you see from the moment you walk in.”
The USBC Open Championship is the world’s largest annual participatory sporting event, attracting between 60,000 to 80,000 participants on five-person teams. Competitors come from all 50 states and from a variety of countries.
“It’s a very interesting thing to see as well as experience,” Cannizzaro said. “We see a variety of players and competitors from all over the nation as well as parts of the world that will be competing in a gathered amount of about 400,000 games and with an expected pin-fall of 100 million.”
When the annual competition finally comes to its close, the USBC will then take down all the materials and equipment used to build the bowling complex and donate it all back to the El Paso community.
“The amount of cables and wires totals about 10 miles, which is enough to power 10 homes, and the lumber material used is enough to build four three-bedroom homes, all in which will be donated back to the El Paso community,” Cannizzaro said.
“I was a little skeptical at first,” said El Paso bowler and competitor Michael Rivera when asked about the championship being held in his hometown.
“After going out of town for competition for so many years, I was kind of disappointed because it’s usually my vacation time, but honestly once you walk into the place ready for competition that all changes,” Rivera said.
Rivera is one of the many competitors that will be competing in all the events at the USBC tournament. Participants can compete in singles, doubles or team events. There are five players per team.
Rivera’s teammate, John Humpfer agrees the El Paso Convention Center transformation worked out well.
“It’s usually me against the lanes, but there is a bit of a pride factor when it comes to this event being held in your hometown, It’s fun and I think the USBC has done a remarkable job of representing El Paso as a host city.”
This is the USBC Open Championship’s fourth trip to Texas, with the last stop in Corpus Christi in 2006. Next year the tournament will be in Reno, Nevada, and in Las Vegas in 2017.