League Seasons: Too long or just right?

League Seasons:  Too long or just right?

by James Goulding III


This has been a topic I have wanted to blog about for some time now, but needed info from my fellow bowlers to help make a few valid points.  The standard length league season goes from 33 to 35 weeks in length.  Typically the season fires up around Labor Day, and ends sometime near the end of April or beginning to middle of May.  Every year around February or March I hear the typical groans from my fellow bowlers about the long “grind” of the season, and how they can’t wait for summer to get here, and the league bowling to be done.  Why can’t we do something about it?  There are a few different factors in play for and against a shortened league season, and I will try and cover those while expressing my view on the subject, which is that I feel shortening the league season to 30 weeks would be a good solution for everyone.


I did an impromptu poll of 50 league bowlers on this very subject and here are the results:

40 said “yes, the league season is too long, and I would like to see it shorter”.

9 said “the league season is perfect, leave it where it is”.

1 said “the league season is too short, I would like to see it longer”.

*I did a follow up poll of the 40 people who said they would like a shorter league season, and here is the results of that poll:

16 voted for a schedule between 30 – 33 weeks.

22 voted for a schedule between 27 – 30 weeks.

2 voted for a schedule between 24 – 27 weeks.

The raw data from this poll helps to explain my exact position on the subject, which is that the league season is too long to keep a bowler’s interest for 33 – 35 weeks a year.  I know the sample size of the poll was only 50 bowlers, but of those 50, 80% said they favor a shorter season, while only 20% favor the current length or a longer schedule.  In the world we live in now, with so many options for people to do outside of bowling (especially when spring time rolls around), we need to find a way to keep the same bowlers coming back year after year, and hopefully bring in some new bowlers to help sustain the sport.

I feel that a season shortened to 30 weeks will help.  Is it the only answer to the declining USBC membership numbers?  Of course not, but I feel it will make a vast majority of league bowlers happier, without putting a huge dent in proprietors pockets.  One of the biggest reasons for leagues not shortening their schedule is the offer the leagues get from the bowling center.  Most centers off a “deal” on lineage if the leagues agree to a longer schedule.  Now the “deal” is usually in the ..20 – .30 cent per game area, which when broken down over the course of 35 weeks, saves the league a decent amount of money.  I feel that if the bowling centers realized that the league numbers may actually increase, or at the very least not decrease, by going to a shorter season, they may be more inclined to give the cheaper rate for a 30 week season.  The only way this can change is to get ALL of the leagues on board with their proposals to the bowling center, and force their hand (so to speak) when it comes to the league schedule.

Also, there can be something done by the league bowlers as well as the proprietors, which would require everyone on the league to commit to increasing their league dues to cover the higher lineage rate.  I can understand the bowling centers wanting a longer commitment from leagues, it’s guaranteed money for the house for 33-35 weeks out of the year.  But, bowlers also have to be proactive, and realize that the house still needs to make money for them to have a place to bowl, and increasing league dues may be required to bowl a shorter season.

For example, if the house gives the league a .25 higher rate if they want to go to 30 weeks, most bowlers would balk and say they’re getting ripped off.  But, if the league votes to increase dues by $1 a week, the league can cover the lineage increase and recoup .65 cents worth of prize fund money per bowler, per week, that would have been lost to a shorter season.  This is a win-win situation for the league and the bowling center.  The proprietor is able to make a little more money off the league in a shorter season, and the bowlers are happy by going to a shorter schedule.

In the end, the houses and league bowlers both need to work together to ensure that future generations of bowlers can enjoy the sport of bowling for decades to come.  I feel that a shortened league season, coupled with a small increase in lineage dues, can be a viable solution to help stop the hemorrhaging of bowlers leaving leagues season after season.  I love the sport, and want to see it thrive and grow in the coming years.  If we all pitch in together, we can make it happen.  Thank you.

-James Goulding III



3 responses to “League Seasons: Too long or just right?

  1. Personally, I feel the season is just about the right length. While I agree that shortening the season maybe increase participation without polling those bowlers who have given up League Bowling or those casual bowlers who choose not to join a league, I think there is not enough information to suggest that shortening the season would actually increase participation. If we could bowl 30 weeks instead of 33-35 and know that this would increase the number of Teams then I would be all for it. But I truly believe that the reason League Bowling is dwindling is simply the economy and the cost involved in bowling in a league. Bowlers are bowling fewer leagues, 1 or 2 a week instead of 2-5. And some are just giving up on League Bowling all together, not because the season it too long, but because what used to cost $9-12/Week 5 years ago now costs $14-17/ Week. You figure this is an increase of roughly $175 per league for the fall season. Not to mention that League Fees are Greater than $500 per league for the fall season. Unfortunately, it is a trend that will continue. Bowl New England which owns Brunswick and Portland centers in Maine actually has an incentive for Leagues that add teams, if you Add 2 teams for the upcoming season you have no increase in your lineage rate for the season. But like just about every center, lineage goes up somewhere between 10-20 cents per game each year. The Bowling Centers have the Leagues between a rock and hard place because it’s not like there are bowling centers competing with each other for business in Maine except in Bangor. Unfortunately I do not have a solution to the problem, I think the PBA and USBC is trying to increase interest in the sport with various programs and marketing ideas. Hopefully, something will click and Bowling will get back to the hey days of the 80’s and early 90’s, but I think this is just a pipe dream, the good old days of doubles shifts every night are long gone, those were the days when League Bowling was Cheap Entertainment, the first Adult League I bowled on in 1987 lineage to the center was $1.65/Game … now that same league it’s over $3.50/Game. Here’s an analogy for you, when Gas is $1.99/Gallon you travel more than when it is $3.99/Gallon. I don’t think bowling is any different.

  2. At Bowl New England in Vermont, the center actually gives a $1000 to the prize fund for a 35 week season. There is then incentive for the league to keep a 35 week season. This year our league night fell on Christmas and New Years. So it was extended into mid may now. Next week is our final week.

  3. James and David,
    I understand your points. I started bowling in Northern Maine and leagues went from the first week in Sep to the 3-5 week of May. Mostly since the snow started to fly in Sep and didn’t leave the ground until June. What else was there to do? Shortening the season to 30 weeks may help, I’m on the fence if it will or won’t. I agree with David. I’m a bowler at heart and feel the current seasons are the right length. I’m also a realist and believe that sometimes things have to change to get better. What that change is I don’t know. I do know one thing that is going to hurt bowling this upcoming season (09-10) is the fact that youth dues are going to be $17 for standard membership and adult dues are increasing by $3 this season (09-10) and $2 more for the next season (10-11). If people are grumbling about the length of the season and money, wait till this hits the oscillating device this fall. I can’t wait!

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