Adventure July 29, 2008

It’s Hip to Bowl Spares

You Don't Have to be an Expert to be in Their League

Are you one of those for whom winter represents a social shutdown? Skiing not an option because the air’s too cold for comfort? Think bowling.

Leagues have been forming at Mountain Sun Lanes Bowling Center in Bellevue since early September, but there’s always room for more, says Mike Weems, resident pro and son of longtime owner Michael Weems, Sr.

“Most people think they are not good enough for a league, but it’s just not true,” the younger Weems says, between strikes. “We have it set up to be fair for any level. We just want people to come and enjoy themselves.”

Bowling as a sport has a long history. There is evidence that it began in Germany as far back as the year 300. English historians say Edward the III outlawed the sport in 1366 to keep his troops focused on archery practice.

Technological boosts brought attention to the sport in the early 1900s, when balls evolved from the extremely heavy wooden design to a rubber ball called the Evertrue, introduced by the Brunswick Corporation in 1914.

Rules, standards and automatic pinsetters opened up the sport to the public, and after a slowdown, bowling is making a comeback today.

Much of the credit lies in its transformation from a largely blue-collar activity to something attractive to the MTV generation. Glowing, black-lit balls, laser lights, music and even fog are now used to create a club-type atmosphere that seems to be working well. The standard for professional bowlers has even been expanded to allow goatees, earrings and cheerleaders.

At Mountain Sun Lanes, music is a huge deal. One hundred CDs fill the jukebox and a new sound and light system has been installed.

Even with the bells and whistles, bowling is a popular and affordable family sport. In fact, says Weems, Sr., it rates as the largest in family participation of any recreational sport.

After 49 years in the business, the owner of the lanes in both Bellevue and Shoshone says,

“Bowling is way cool.”

So cool that Bruce and Demi held a party for his 40th at the Bellevue location that was named People magazine’s “mother lode of parties.”

“It’s just a great way for families and friends to get together. There are no generation gaps. Everybody can interact, no matter what their ability,” the senior Weems says.

The Bellevue site is one of those selected as a Western showcase center for AMF (worldwide bowling center operators) and is one of a growing number of “boutique bowling centers with a nightclub atmosphere, but no smoking,” Weems Sr. says.

He is living proof it’s a family sport-—his namesake could rank professionally, but prefers to stay here where he is needed. 

“I’ve spent my whole life bowling,” says the 29-year-old.

“I had him pushing balls around when he was a baby,” his dad says.

His other son, John, 32, is a good bowler but recently was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in California. In true Weems style, John’s sons, Jacob, 6, and Zachary, 1, know their way around the lanes already. Weems Sr. and wife Ruthie keep the romance alive at the alley, working together there seven days a week.

Both Weems and his son say they will do most anything to keep the sport going. They added the Shell gas station for alley revenue and will soon have a pro shop. They are also working with Sun Valley Adaptive Sports to develop a program for the handicapped and with senior groups as well.

Leagues continue through April, lessons are always available and the site can be booked for parties, too.
For more information, call 208.788.2360


This article appears in the Winter 2007 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.