Opinion: Get the ball rolling again
As a local business owner and a citizen of Michigan, I applaud Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for making difficult decisions and taking appropriate action in the fight against COVID-19. I also cannot thank enough the thousands of front-line workers who selflessly continue to do their jobs for our benefit.
That being said, our economy is facing great hardship. While I completely understand that the top priority remains health and safety, it is time to put our state back to work by reopening more non-essential businesses, including the 300-plus bowling centers.
Each year, nearly 70 million people bowl in the United States, making it one of the most popular sports and leisure activities for all ages. Many bowling establishments in our state are family-owned businesses, serving as a focal point of their communities for generations. Like many local businesses, they have been shuttered for nearly three months and need to know that they’ll be able to reopen soon to survive. Many bowling centers are suffering and may close their doors permanently if they can’t open soon.
I understand why some may have reservations about returning to bowling; it’s a very tactile experience where equipment and spaces are frequently shared. It is important to note, however, that centers have always made cleanliness a top priority. Given the volume of traffic and shared nature of bowling, safety and sanitation efforts have now intensified to new levels. We are closely monitoring government policy changes, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, public health advancements and guidance from our trade association, the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America (BPAA).
In states where they have been allowed to reopen, many bowling centers have begun welcoming guests back after thoroughly enhancing health and safety policies.
Unlike many other public businesses deemed non-essential, bowling centers are large facilities, often encompassing 30,000-40,000 square feet of space. We are well positioned for social distancing practices, such as situating our guests on every other lane. Additionally, centers are personally applying deep and thorough health and safety practices including:
► Sanitizing every ball and shoe after each use
► Providing hand sanitizer for all customers
► Handling all transactions with as minimal contact as possible
► Providing PPE (masks and gloves) for all staff on site (where required)
► Regular sanitization of all gaming and high-contact surfaces
► Screening workers for illness
Now is the time to reopen the local economy as safely as possible for all businesses like bowling and other industries that are taking the necessary steps to safeguard the well-being of their customers and employees. We are prepared to begin with reduced occupancy, physical distancing measures, face mask requirements and stringent sanitization protocols. Through daily monitoring of data from the state, we can evaluate the health benchmarks and marginally adjust as needed.
To our thousands of loyal customers, the bowling center operators of Michigan are ready to roll when you are.
Bo Goergen is the Michigan state executive director of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America. He owns Northern Lanes in Sanford.