2010 – 2011 PBA Tour Notes: “A Season Of Change”
by James Goulding III
As the current 2009 – 2010 season on the PBA tour winds down to the last few events, it is time to start wondering where the PBA will be next season. It is no secret that the current economy has taken a toll on everybody, especially businesses. And, the PBA is no exception in that regard. There have been rumors of a possible short season schedule to save money next year, or smaller prize funds, or the worst case scenario being that the PBA tour folds up and closes its doors altogether. Well, some of those questions were answered this week, and some were not so clear just yet. Much of the information obtained for my blog post can be found on the PBA forums, just follow the link at the bottom of the page. Here is a brief synopsis of where the PBA tour stands heading into next season:
The Professional Bowlers Association laid out general plans for the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season in a meeting with the exempt Tour players Wednesday in Norwich, Conn., site of this week’s GoRVing PBA Match Play Championship.
Highlights of the announcements made by Fred Schreyer, PBA Tour Commissioner and CEO and Tom Clark, Deputy Commissioner and COO:
– The PBA Tour’s signature event, the PBA Tournament of Champions, will feature a record $1 million prize fund, record $250,000 first-place prize and different eligibility rules making it open to any PBA titlist (National, Regional, Senior, Women’s Series) in history. The Tournament of Champions will air Jan. 23. This season’s event, which was won by Kelly Kulick in history-making fashion, scored the highest ratings for the PBA in five years.
– The ESPN Television schedule of 23 original PBA programs will begin at the end of November, 2010, and run through April 2011.
– Lumber Liquidators has affirmed its commitment as the PBA Tour’s title sponsor through September, 2011. Lumber Liquidators has been the title sponsor since the beginning of the 2008-09 PBA Tour season.
– The PBA World Series of Bowling will return, producing nine separate TV shows and culminating with the PBA World Championship. In a story that captured the imagination of the sports world, the PBA World Championship was won this season by Michigan’s Tom Smallwood. A USA vs. World special competition will also emanate from the WSOB. Last year’s inaugural PBA World Series of Bowling had participation from 700 different professionals from 14 different nations.
– For the first time in PBA history, some events will feature three consecutive days of live television (Friday, Saturday, Sunday time slots on ESPN platforms) coverage. The PBA World Championship and U.S. Open will both be telecast in this groundbreaking presentation. Previously, only the final championship round of any PBA Tour event has been telecast.
– The USBC Masters once again rounds out the list of four major championships and will be aired live from Reno’s National Bowling Stadium.
– For the first time in PBA history, live telecasts will be in ESPN High Definition.
– The first-ever PBA Playoffs will conclude the season with a six-week series of shows. The elimination series will have its own separate prize fund and be a key decider in the PBA Player of the Year race.
– The Chris Paul PBA Celebrity Invitational returns for the third consecutive year. The event, which benefits New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul’s CP3 Foundation, features pro bowler/celebrity doubles teams. LeBron James, Ludacris, Dwyane Wade and Hines Ward are among celebrities having competed the past two years.
– A new “Xtra Frame Tour” will bring the PBA Tour players to at least five different locations in the USA for non-televised events conducted with a similar format as the current PBA Senior Tour. The events will be webcast exclusively on the PBA’s official video service on pba.com, Xtra Frame. Xtra Frame has doubled in its subscriber base since this season’s inaugural WSOB.
Further information with more specificity on prize funds, tournament formats, event venues, qualifying tournaments and complete event and TV schedule will be released soon.
Now, there are many details and prize funds still to be determined, but I have to say I was stunned by the news. I didn’t expect the PBA tour to run for 23 tournaments next year, which is a very welcome change for the better. Also, I am excited to see three-day live coverage of events like the U.S. Open. It is nice to see the top 4 or 5 on TV Sunday afternoons, but getting to see what it takes to get there may draw in some non-traditional bowling viewers and help to educate non-bowling sports crowds that bowling on the PBA tour is serious business and a grind to boot.
But, the thing that peaked my interest the most was the 1 million dollar prize fund for the TOC, with a $250,000 first place payout. I have been saying for years that the only way bowling is going to get mainstream media coverage and be taken seriously as a sport is to have big payouts. I know this takes sponsorship and participation money, but it finally seems the PBA is on the right track with this one. Capitalizing on the Kelly Kulick TOC win from this season had to be a major factor in getting enough sponsorship money to make this happen. Plus, if this ends up being a boon for the PBA next season, it could lead to increased prize funds across the board in seasons to come.
On a personal note, it will FINALLY be nice to see the telecast in ACTUAL high-definition coverage next season! I have been waiting for this ever since buying my 52″ plasma TV last year, and I can’t wait to watch the first telecast of the season as I drool into my pile of nachos and potato chips!
I think that the PBA tour is trying to revitalize a sport that has always been considered a niche sport, and give it credibility while making money at the same time. I am glad to see they are working hard to put out a quality product next season, an my only hope is that the payouts for all the other tournaments during the season see similar increases so that professional bowlers can once again be proud to proclaim that they bowl on the PBA tour for a living. There hasn’t been any additional info as far as the tour trials, or the status of the number of exempt tour players for next season, so when that info becomes available I will try to make sure it ends up on here as well. As always, feel free to comment on anything you read in my blog post, I will get back to you ASAP. The opinions in this blog are independent of the MSUSBC and its board members, and are to be used for information and entertainment purposes only. Thanks for reading, have a great day.