State of Illinois loosens restrictions on bowling centers

Bowling centers around the state, including Rochelle’s T-Byrd Lanes, will be able to operate at a greater capacity after the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association settled with the state to loosen restrictions. The new guidelines allow bowling centers to operate at the lesser of 50 percent capacity or 200 patrons. (Photo by Andrew Heiserman)

Proprietors allowed to operate at lesser of 50 percent capacity or 200 patrons

ROCHELLE — Bowling centers, including Rochelle’s T-Byrd Lanes, received good news this past weekend after the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association reached an agreement with the state to loosen restrictions on the maximum capacity allowed inside facilities.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker revealed new state guidelines for sports this past Wednesday, with the guidelines indicating that bowling will be considered a low-risk sport. With these guidelines in mind, the ISBPA and the state worked together to expand capacities for bowling centers, allowing them to operate at the lesser of 50-percent capacity or 200 patrons. Previous restrictions limited bowling centers to 50 patrons or fewer.

The news was overwhelmingly positive for bowling proprietors like Dan Wyka, who operates Rochelle’s T-Byrd Lanes. While T-Byrd Lanes has been closed since July 26 and will remain closed until Aug. 17 for summer maintenance and remodeling, Wyka said the new bowling center guidelines will allow for leagues to begin on time and at full capacity later this month.

“We’re excited,” Wyka said. “Our biggest league has 70 bowlers, so our biggest concern was whether or not we’d be able to run our leagues in full. We’ll be having meetings with our leagues to discuss social distancing and masks… We have to keep our business going.”

Wyka said the Thursday Night Classic League will begin on Aug. 20, while the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday leagues will have meetings earlier that week. Among the discussions with league officers, team captains and members will be recommendations from the ISBPA, the USBC and the Ogle County Health Department regarding distancing and sanitation guidelines.

“We’re doing the best we can for everybody’s health,” Wyka said. “My wife has been on the phone with the Ogle County Health Department constantly and we’re always asking questions about what we can and cannot do and how we can keep our equipment clean.”

While adult leagues will start on schedule, Wyka said he’s waiting on direction from local school districts before making any decisions regarding the High School League, Youth League and Bumper League, all of which take place on Saturday mornings from late summer through late spring. Although COVID-19 cases are still being reported daily across the state, Wyka said the number of teams and bowlers signed up for local leagues hasn’t wavered much.

“Our youth leagues normally don’t start until October, so we still have a couple of months,” Wyka said. “I’m waiting to see what the schools do because, if the kids aren’t going to school, I’m not sure if we’d want them coming here in large groups because it may be harder to get them to wear masks. I’m watching to see what the schools do and what the health department says. If high school bowling will be allowed, then I’ll have our High School League.”

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