At the corner of Springfield Pike and Worthington Avenue is the Wyoming Civic Center. The building is an ideal space for wedding receptions and various other social events.
But a walk downstairs reveals a candlelit bowling alley, a true rarity in the Midwest.
At first glance, it appears to be a normal bowling alley, but take a look and its unique features will stand out.
The balls are smaller and lighter. The pins are taller and narrower than their contemporary counterparts. For each lane there are pencils and a paper score sheet; the electronics do not help in the language that takes into account the scores.
Steve Sharrock discovered the alley when his family moved to Wyoming when he was 8 years old. His first meeting was at a birthday party and he has been involved in leagues ever since. Like many others who have played the game, eccentricity keeps him coming back.
“I love it. It’s a cool game. I love games, and it’s a really cool, rare game,” Sharrock said.
Sharrock played baseball in high school and found that bowling kept his arm free during the winter. Although he played baseball at the University of South Florida, he found his way back to Wyoming and bowling. Now he is commissioner of the men’s winter league.
The variety of candles might be unfamiliar to most, but allow an hour or two to check out the game, and you might find that this rare find is for you.
“It’s just something very unique. I think people like that they’re keeping score with pencil and paper. There’s no electronics. I feel like I’m finally using something I learned in gym class,” said Jennifer Pospisil, the civic center recreation supervisor.
Pospisil has been working there since 2014. Spending time around bowling has taught him the unique aspects of the game.
What is Candlelight Bowling?
Candlepin bowling originated in Wooster, Massachusetts in the 1880s. Justin White is credited with inventing the sport, and John J. Monsey helped regulate the game and spread it throughout the state. The International Candlelight Bowling Association was established in 1986. Today, the game is most popular in its founding state of Massachusetts, as well as New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Scotland.
Candlepin and 10 pin are similar in shape but differ in technical aspects. The pins are taller, thinner, lighter and more widely spaced. Balls are smaller and weigh the same as bowling pins (about two and a half pounds). Due to the disparity, bowlers have three attempts to knock down all 10 pins instead of two.
The oil is spread on the lanes but is intended to protect the floor rather than cause the ball to bend. When the pins are knocked down, they are not swept from the lane but can be used to knock down the remaining pins.
Players are allowed to wear bowling shoes, but also have the option of wearing socks.
“People can wear bowling shoes if they have them. Most people don’t, so we just encourage them to wear socks,” Pospisil said.
The best score ever was a 254 in 1984 and 2011, a testament to the game’s difficulty. The game itself is a physics lesson, perfect for a high school field trip. Counting the dots, although simple addition, is a math lesson.
Between the pinball and standard 10-pin bowling is a variation known as duckpin, which has grown in popularity thanks to local spots like Pins Mechanical Co. and hopping vines. Duckpin is largely similar to Candlepin. The only exceptions are that the bullet is slightly larger and heavier, and the pins are miniature versions of those used in 10-pins.
Many refer to the candle as “true bowling” as opposed to 10 pin. Although less popular among the general population, it takes more skill to knock down pins, even with one more throw. By Sharrock’s estimate, half of the bowlers in the current league have 10-pin bowling experience. Despite the differences, skills translate.
How Candlepin Bowling Came to Ohio
In the case of Wyoming, there are conflicting reports about driveway design. The site of the current civic center was also the site of the two previous buildings, called “amusement halls”. The first was built in 1885 and destroyed in a fire in 1907. The second room suffered a similar fate in 1948, leading to the construction of the current building in 1949.
The earliest date associated with the lane is a plaque that recognizes Smith Allen Coffing’s high score of 170 in January 1922. Pine boys worked the lanes for 10 cents an hour until mechanical pinspotters were brought in installed in 1960. The driveway has undergone several renovations, the most recent being in 2017. The wooden floors have been replaced and a full-length mural has been installed to commemorate the space.
Wyoming Public Works staff maintain the driveway, making sure everything runs smoothly during events.
Leagues have always been popular among residents, ranging from those barely old enough to throw the ball down the alley to older adults who have played for decades. But the driveway is most popular with the younger crowd. Reservation options on the Civic Center website include the bowling alley only and the lane for a child’s birthday party.
“The two-hour children’s birthday party is definitely popular. It’s generally designed for kids 12 and under, but generally adults will play just as well here,” Pospisil said.
The center even held a week-long minicamp for children during the summers. For a few hours each day, children showed up to play board games, watch movies, and go bowling. The camp eventually switched to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday format as it became difficult to entertain the kids with the same activities. The camp was put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic and has not returned since.
In the past, there have been open bowling nights, sometimes held in conjunction with school open days. Parents could drop their kids off at school and experience a different open day at the bowling alley. But, like the minicamp, these events have not returned since the start of the pandemic.
While Sharrock was at school, even though the rest of the town was quiet, the bowling alley was still there, ready for fun times and competition among fellow students.
“Before, you could always rely on bowling if nothing else happened,” Sharrock said.
Other popular events include graduation parties and corporate events. The adjacent Corral Room has a capacity of 60 people, helping to host such events.
When Pospisil stepped into her current role, most Wyoming residents booked the aisle. But that has changed, with more non-residents discovering the alley and its history.
“More and more, the word kind of traveled and got out. I would say it’s probably a 60-40 split. Sixty (percent) residents and 40 (percent) non-residents. said Pospisil.
Currently, the driveway is primarily used by reservations and a men’s winter league. Pospisil said there have been requests for additional leagues and the center is open to hosting more groups.
Sharrock’s league rolls Thursday nights in the fall and spring. Six teams of five players compete each week. There are two 13-week sessions which consist of a double round robin, two “position” weeks and an end of season party.
Serving as league commissioner doesn’t give Sharrock a competitive edge, but he still finds himself at or near the top of the standings.
“I never have the best average, but my team wins a lot,” Sharrock said.
For more information and questions regarding the bowling alley, visit the Civic Center website or call (513) 821-5423.