Spare Time Lanes' $1 million expansion and upgrade is nearly finished, but spectators and competitors for the PBA Senior Decatur Open will have to pardon the dust while workers finish construction on the bowling alley's eight new lanes.
The eight Brunswick lanes with GSX pinsetters are being constructed in the expanded east side of the building. According to Spare Time owner Gary Haines, they're the first new lanes built in Decatur in 25 years.
"These are state-of-the-art lanes. The best money can buy," Haines said. "They can set up pin layouts that the old A-2 machines can't and they have a breakdown ratio of 4,000-frames per cycle stop, so they're fairly maintenance free and that should speed up play.
"We're hoping the construction will be done by Sept. 1, but at this point it's still a work zone in there," Haines said. "We're going to try to clean it up as much as we can for the tournament."
Some of the bowling alley's upgrades are already finished. All lanes now feature a computerized vector scoring system with a touch screen laptop that not only keeps the game's score, but ball speed and location too. The old 25-inch TV monitors that kept track of the game have been replaced by 32-inch LCD monitors, and 42-inch plasma screen TVs have been added between lanes so bowlers can keep up on other sporting events. Also, a new, more colorful masking unit (the area above the pins) was added.
"We've always been a pretty modern center," Haines said. "But we wanted to take it to the next level. These are the same things that a new house Brunswick builds in Chicago would have.
"Spending all this money, I'm a little nervous whether Decatur will support it, but I believe it will," Haines said. "Decatur is a pretty die-hard bowling town."
Decatur's allegiance to bowling and the number of prominent Decatur bowlers are the reasons Haines brought the PBA Senior Open to Decatur. The final of nine events on the PBA Senior Tour doesn't officially start until Sunday. But tournament festivities begin Friday with a meet and greet at 5 p.m., followed by the Race for the Cure Bowling Shootout at 7 p.m. Any one can enter the shootout, with funds going toward cancer research.
The Spare Time Pro-Am Tournament will be held Saturday. Bowlers of all ages can match talents against the PBA Senior Tour bowlers - $20 for adults and $10 for youths - with sessions at 2, 4:30 and 7 p.m.
The pro-am will be a doubles competition on the same PBA-certified lane condition that is being used for the tournament, the "Senior Cheetah" pattern. The 9-pin no-tap scoring system will be used for amateurs. If the pro partner does not reach 200, a 200 game will be credited toward the doubles score.
"The pro-am gives regular bowlers a chance to play with nationally known bowlers, and it's extremely cheap," Haines said. "We have people coming from Michigan and Wisconsin to do it just because it's so cheap."
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The PBA Senior Decatur Open officially begins Sunday and runs through Tuesday. Local senior Bennie Holman will be among the competitors, who include top-five points leaders Tom Baker, Kenny Parks, Keith Sharp, Dale Traber and Johnny Petraglia. Also in the field will be former senior player of the year Dale Eagle and past TV favorites Bob Chamberlain, Henry Gonzalez, Hugh Miller, Dave Soutar, Wayne Webb and 2006 Decatur champ Charlie Tapp.
Queen captures two titles
Decatur's Jason Queen captured two PBA Midwest titles during the summer, the latest coming on Sunday in Chillicothe, Mo.
Queen defeated Tim Behrendt of St. Louis 230-201 in the title match of the Fast Lane Open to earn the $2,200 top prize.
On Saturday, Queen qualified in the third position, then on Sunday defeated El Paso's Rick Kidd and former ABC champion Derek Sapp to advance to the final match.
At the end of June, Queen beat a star-studded field in Oak Forest, taking home $2,400 along with the first-place trophy. In that tournament, Jason qualified second and took out Bloomington's Tim Paul Jr. to reach the Round of Eight.
Ironically, Queen's next two victims were Behrendt and Sapp, and in the title match against Springfield's Jeff Carter, Queen rolled a 258 to eke out a two-pin victory.
Queen's victories were even more impressive considering he was in the midst of a major equipment change. After 11 seasons as a representative of Ebonite, Queen recently accepted an enhanced offer from Brunswick, ending one of the longest-running bowler/manufacturer associations of the current PBA era.
In the Chillicothe event, Decatur's Jake Peters earned his first regional check with a 10th-place finish, averaging 210 in 13 games of qualifying.
Al Pote contributed to this report.