Look out Eldorado window and you see what has helped change Reno's image By Dick Evans

    02/11/10

    Column

    Reno leaders gambled on National Bowling Stadium and it has paid off

    ColumnistDickEvans.jpg Looking down at the lights of downtown Reno from my 18th floor room at the Eldorado Hotel/Casino made me realize what a great role that bowling and the Eldorado have played in the revitalization of this once cowboy gambling Mecca.

    The first time I drove through Reno in the 1960s the rave in the casino I visited was about the upcoming rodeo. It was not surprising because there were a lot of cowboys in the casino and I liked the sign hanging over Virginia Street: "The biggest little city in the world."

    But the world has changed in the past 50 years and so has Reno in my mind -- it is now one of the most exciting and versatile cities in the world and cowboys have been replaced by bowlers.

    And with the change from the old west to the new west came the beautiful National Bowling Stadium, located only a block from the Eldorado.

    In my estimation, the revitalized downtown civic area owes much of its new charm and modern facilities to the fact that the $40 million National Bowling Stadium has been a tremendous drawing card since it opened in 1995.

    I realize that Reno survives on other people's gambling money but I wonder what in the world motivated the Reno/Sparks leaders starting in about 1992 to build a $40 million, 78-lane bowling stadium in downtown Reno.

    Never in the history of the world had a city invested 40 million dollars to build a permanent bowling stadium that would not cater to local citizens -- only tournament bowlers from across the world.

    The leaders certainly were gambling money and their reputations because the entries from three previous ABC National Championship Tournaments held at the Reno/Sparks Convention Center in Reno (1977,1984, 1990) were not impressive -- with 35,679,bowlers in 1977, 41,900 in 1984 and 46,000 in 1990.

    Sure, the ABC tournament showed steady growth but not enough to risk $40 million in a bowling stadium that could become a White Elephant

    But maybe the Reno leaders saw the potential of bowling when 78,462 ladies rushed to Reno to compete in the 1988 WIBC National Championship tournament.

    In a way, the stampede of women bowlers -- many who loved to play the slots ---was reminiscent silver rush days to nearby Virginia City in the late 1890s. It was an amazing turnout for the WIBC tournament because the host bowling centers -- Carson Lanes and Bally's Grand Lanes -- were located about 35 miles apart.

    Once the Reno/Sparks leaders decided to gamble their reputation on bowling, they had to talk both ABC and WIBC leaders into bringing their national tournaments to Reno once every three years.

    The opening ABC tournament at the National Bowling Stadium in 1995 drew 85,664 bowlers and the first WIBC tournament at the Stadium in 1997 attracted 88,279 singles entries.

    Little wonder the Reno/Sparks delegation sweetened the pot when a new contract was signed. And little wonder Reno spent $1.3 million on renovations on the four story building that occupies 330,000 square feet, including a 100-seat theater.

    The 2010 USBC Open Championship begins Feb. 20 at the National Bowling Stadium and will run through July 4. More than 72,000 male and female bowlers on 14,000 plus teams will bowl nine games in hopes of winning a title and a beautiful gold eagle.

    Believe it or not, bowling has been responsible for more than 750,000 people driving or flying or taking a bus or hitching their way Reno to bowl. I came up with that educated guess by adding up all the single entries in previous ABC and WIBC and USBC national tournaments.

    And you could add in at least another 200,000 bowlers who have entered other tournaments at the National Bowling Stadium like the Professional Association. And then you could add at least another 100,000 people who have traveled with family members or friends to watch them compete in the National Bowling Stadium.

    So by my figures, Reno owes much of its growth to one million bowlers, friends of bowlers and bowling workers.

    Make no mistake, Reno has rolled out the red carpet for bowlers and bowling industry leaders like no other city in America and in my mind Reno richly deserves national tournaments from 2009-2012 and a BPAA Bowl Expo in 2013.

    The Reno leaders who gambled on bowling have hit the jackpot 100 times over.

    And sitting right in front of it all is the Eldorado, my favorite hotel for many reasons.

    One thing that appeals to me about the Eldorado is the fact that Gregg Carano, one of the gifted Carano family members and the man who runs the Eldorado, likes to bowl and he also is a fine chef. His actual title at the Eldorado is Vice-President, Corporate Food & Beverage but I just think of him as a bowler. ´

    On one trip to Reno, I rode with super instructor John Jowdy and Gregg to a nearby bowling center where Jowdy gave Gregg lessons for two hours.

    Gregg will be bowling in the 2010 USBC Open Championship and maybe his closeness to the sport is one of the reasons the Eldorado goes out of its way to cater to bowlers and bowling leaders.

    "I know my bowling average is going up and I love that. I enjoy bowling and am back in a league and enjoy it more than ever," Gregg said. "I am personally excited to bowl in this year's tournament and test out the new Brunswick equipment at the National Bowling Stadium."

    And he realizes how much the 2009 USBC Women's Championship and the 2010 USBC Open Championships have meant to the entire area during these tough economic times.

    "In a down economy, we are very excited about hosting such a great sports event for bowlers from across the world," Gregg said. "The USBC Open Championships are great for the Reno-Tahoe area and having a convention along with the actual tournament is a natural fit and makes it a total event in my mind.

    "My father, Don Carano, and all my family, with an emphasis on Glenn Carano and Rick Murdock, have been and will continue to support the USBC, NBS and the bowling industry when it comes to the Reno area. We believe in bowling."

    Gregg then pointed out a point that I believe is true: "The Eldorado and the Silver Legacy and Circus-Circus (the Tri-Properties) have been the No. 1 promoter of bowling since the sport started playing such a giant role in the economic growth of the area."

    I wouldn't be surprised if Gregg was expecting to bowl a couple good sets during the tournament and wants to boast a little so that is why the Eldorado has set up a dedicated area on the casino floor for tournament bowlers. It will located behind the sports book and will be called the "Strike Zone" and will feature daily drink specials during the duration of the tournament.

    I wonder if they will let old bowling writers in if I bring my tape recorder?

    Looking out the giant window in my 18th floor room, I could see and take pride in the role that bowling has played in modernizing the downtown area.

    Two blocks from the Eldorado I could see the lights of the state-of-the art Aces Ballpark, which opened last year. The 2010 team will start playing Triple A baseball April 8 with many of the players only within a homer or two-hitter of being moved to the Arizona Diamondbacks' roster.

    My eyes then moved to the left and I spotted downtown Reno's newest Ballroom where many convention activities will be held.

    I have stayed in too many to count hotels and motels during my life and as times change my tastes change. I always have liked to stay near the action and that is why I have enjoyed hotels like the Showboat, Sam's Town, The Orleans and MGM Grand/Bally because the bowling centers were connected to the hotels.

    The Eldorado is one block from the National Bowling Stadium and offers the best view of the beautiful bowling facility so it is close to the action.

    And here are personal reasons I like to stay at the Eldorado when I am in Reno for a bowling tournament.

    1. The Eldorado is short walk from the National Bowling Stadium.
    2. The Eldorado elevators, and there are enough of them, always work. Chuck Pezzano (PBA historian) used to complain about the elevators never working right at when we stayed at Showboat Hotel in Las Vegas. And we stayed there often because the old Showboat hosted three PBA tournaments in a year.
    3. There are security guards at the Eldorado check everyone who gets on the up the elevators at the lower and upper casino areas so you don't have to look over your shoulder when you are walking to your room at night.
    4. I always enjoyed eating at cafeterias when I worked 40 years at The Miami Herald and I love the buffet at the Eldorado. My only request is that they include tomatoes among things you can put in your omelet in the morning.
    5. The sports book appeals to me because I can sit there and play the horses or bet on basketball/baseball/football games and watch the faces of the bowlers as they return from the National Bowling Stadium and almost figure out who shot good and who were disappointed with their score.
    6. On a few occasions, I have been invited into the Gold Room and it lives up to its name -- it's golden. I have been fortunate to get a lot of stories by interviewing bowling leaders in the Gold Room.
    7. I love Italian food and the Italian restaurant in the Eldorado (LaStrada) is second to none in my opinion.
    8. Not even my buddy Chuck Pezzano, who used to get lost in the Showboat even after 5,000 visits, can get lost in the Eldorado.
    9. The Eldorado has been very gracious about hosting Bowling Writers Association of America events and also meetings of the California Bowling writers. In other words the Eldorado is writer friendly.
    10. Most of the employees seem to like bowlers. I never will forget how a security guard helped the late Joe Lyou, the greatest Korean-American bowling writer in the world and a good buddy, after he suffered almost fainted coming out of the buffet on morning. The guard not only got Joe a wheel chair but took him to his room and helped him get in bed.
    11. I love coffee when I just wake up so each night and prepare my coffee machine so all I have to do is turn it on and then enjoy my paper and my beautiful view of the National Bowling Stadium.

    Below you will find some of the reasons that bowlers should enjoy staying at the Eldorado or eating in one of its many restaurants.

    • Two Free 12oz Bud or Bud Lights in the "Strike Zone Bar." Offer valid with coupon.
    • All Budweiser 12oz. products are only $2.50 on the casino floor with your USBC membership card.
    • Free breakfast or lunch buffet or $10 food and beverage coupon good at any Eldorado restaurant.
    • Buy one show ticket and receive 50 percent off the second ticket
    • $5 Casino Freeplay, with sign-up of Club Eldorado card
    • 20% Eldorado Retail Shop Discount
    • Group leaders receive a free upgrade to a suite and $50 in dining credits when 15 or more room nights are reserved!

    All bowling roads between Feb. 20 and July 4 lead to bowling and many to the Eldorado.

    Email address: Evans121@aol.com.