Fido Chen, co-owner of the new Northern Lights Bowling in Riverdale, poses for at photo at the alley in Whitehorse on Sept. 9. Northern Lights Bowling is set to start a mixed bowling league — the first bowling league Whitehorse has had in a number of years. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse bowlers ready for competitive season

First league play in years starting Sept. 16

On Sept. 16, competition will be rolling once again at the only bowling alley in Whitehorse.

Northern Lights Bowling is set to start its mixed league — the first bowling league Whitehorse has had in a number of years.

In a Sept. 9 interview Stephen Kwok, who previously owned what was then Mad Trapper Alleys and describes himself as a consultant working for the new owners who purchased the alley in 2019, recalled the last bowling leagues running around the 2016 season.

At one time there were multiple leagues throughout the week, but as the bowling alley got older and needed more work and as Kwok started to think about selling, they came to an end.

Last year, after the new owners purchased the bowling alley, major renos got underway and the like-new Northern Lights Bowling opened in December.

Whitehorse residents seemed pleased to have a bowling alley reopened, with many reserving lanes and coming in to play.

“(It was) very busy,” Fido Chen, one of the two new owners, said in a Sept. 9 interview.

Kwok pointed out things were so busy that there were a couple of weekends around the beginning of March that saw record numbers coming in to bowl a game or two.

For Chen, who had never operated a bowling alley previously, it has been fun to see just how much Whitehorse residents enjoy the highly social sport, many laughing and some even dancing as they take their turns firing balls down the lanes in the hopes of smashing all five pins that stand at the end.

Fido Chen, co-owner of the new Northern Lights Bowling in Riverdale, tosses a couple bowling balls at the newly remodelled location in Whitehorse on Sept. 9. Competition will begin rolling once again on Sept. 16 with the introduction of a bowling league. (Crystal Schick/Yuon News)

That was halted in March thanks to COVID-19, with the bowling alley reopening in July with new measures in place to address COVID-19.

It meant months of not having revenue, coupled with spending to meet the new requirements.

Like many facilities in town, signs and arrows direct bowlers from the entrance to the front desk where they can register for games, get their bowling shoes and so on. Plastic dividers are in place every two lanes and extensive cleaning measures are in place to ensure safety.

Even with the new measures in place, both Chen and Kwok, who owns the Riverdale Neighbourhood Pub next door to the lanes on Lewes Boulevard, have noticed business gradually increasing since the bowling alley reopened.

As with so many aspects of 2020 life, patrons are becoming accustomed to the regulations in place.

“They have to get used to it and learn it,” Kwok said, noting it has not been a major issue for most bowlers as many are happy to get back to the sport and social time they enjoy.

And that’s exactly what Chen and Kwok are hoping for as league play begins Sept. 16.

Put simply both said they’re hoping bowlers have a lot of fun in the mixed league and so far interest is high with 18 of a possible 20 bowlers registered for the season.

“It’s not just for pros,” Kwok said, noting a handicap system will be in place based on the player’s average from the three games they’ll play in the first evening of league play Sept. 16 beginning at 7 p.m.

That said, interest has been largely coming from enthusiastic bowlers who have already invested in their own bowling gear. Kwok has heard from many he knew in the youth league years ago and are now old enough to participate in the adult mixed league. They’re excited to come back, Kwok said.

Those who bowled in previous leagues at the alley will notice teams are limited to four players rather than the previous five. It is among the measures in place to address the pandemic, he explained.

The freshly remodelled bowling alley, Northern Lights Bowling, in Whitehorse on Sept. 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

While the bowling alley is set to begin with one league, Chen said they will gauge the interest and if there’s enough demand more leagues may start up in the future.

Kwok said the bowling alley is also excited to welcome back Special Olympics Yukon athletes with their programs starting up in October after COVID-19 also halted those programs in the spring. They too will have to split what had been one session into two to keep the number of people in the bowling alley at one time down.

“It’s definitely a big deal for us,” Andrew Elines, program director with Special Olympics Yukon, said in a Sept. 9 interview. “It means a lot.”

He noted bowling is the most popular sport Special Olympics Yukon offers its athletes with many enjoying the social aspect of the sport.

Typically between 30 to 40 of the group’s athletes take part in bowling through the season, compared to about 20 who register for the next most popular sport of bocce.

While Special Olympics Yukon hasn’t officially spoken with all its athletes, Elines said those he has talked to are “super excited” to learn bowling will be back on the list of sports offered in the 2020-2021 season.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Special Olympics

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