North American Bowling News

Way Out West -- Duckpins!

A Potter Pinboy

Who'd have thought that the sport of duckpin bowling, confined primarily to the east coast for several generations, actually exists some 1,500 miles away from the game's demographic pulse of the mid-atlantic and northeastern states? Unlikely as it seems, it's a fact. The town of Potter, Nebraska has managed to preserve and keep the game going, more so as a tourist attraction, rather than an actual competitive arena. Potter is a small village with a population of approximately 400 people. The closest nearby and significant-sized town is Sidney, about 20 minutes away with an estimated population in the neighborhood of 5,000 people. It is in Sidney, Nebraska and also in the city of Kimball that the nearest tenpin bowling centers reside.

The advertising material used to promote activities in the town of Potter mention scenic parks with obstacle-course type equipment for the kids' amusement. Noteworthy landmarks are the community library, two antique malls, a flea market, and the old-fashioned soda fountain. The original railroad depot serves as one of the village's two museums.

The Potter Duckpin Bowling Center is the only functional duckpin bowling alley west of the Mississippi River. The bowling alley was erected in 1920, residing on the upstairs floor of a hardware store. This upper portion of the building was used for bowling until 1951. In recent times, the bowling alley was owned by a family who later donated it to the town's historical foundation, in which it was subsequently leased to the Potter Lions Club.

Today, the lower level is occupied by the Potter State Bank, and the bowling alley is owned/maintained by Hal Enevoldsen, who took over in 2003. The bowling alley was reopened sometime during the idle years that came well after 1951, and there were actually leagues that bowled at Potter Bowling Center. But over time, wear and tear on the old facility took its toll and major structural renovations had to be done, including repair of the walls and ceilings, refinishing the lanes, and other interior issues.

Renovations were completed in 2009, and the bowling center is now primarily used for private parties. Through word-of-mouth referrals and advertising at the "Spring Expo", Potter Bowling Center gets its share of business. The establishment was rented out every weekend in February of 2010, and hosted corporate group events in April. On the average, the center is used 5 or 6 times a month. Rates for rental are interesting in that it costs $25.00 for a standard party during the summer months, and $50.00 during the winter months, if heating the facility is needed.

The lanes themselves have no pinsetting machinery. One of the advertising promos states, "Bring your own pinsetter", which has a refreshing amount of positive appeal, in that the patrons seem to enjoy experiencing bowling's nostalgia, reliving 'the way bowling used to be', in which pinboys/pingirls set up the pins. Once the alley has been rented out, the patrons pretty much go at their own pace. With no machinery to break down, groups have 'free run' of the bowling center and need little supervision or assistance.

Before the major renovations of 2009, the bowling center employed the use of rubberband duckpins. One of the foundation members who is closely involved with the operation of the bowling alley, was able to visit Ebay and acquired several sets of regulation duckpins, which significantly increased scoring and the overall appeal of the game.

The Potter Bowling Center is a grand example of what is essentially a non-commercial idea keeping duckpin bowling alive. As a result, the town of Potter owns a noteworthy pocket in the history of duckpins. To the Potter Historical Foundation—the sport of bowling says a big "Thank You".

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