CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Bowling enthusiasts had been waiting weeks for local bowling centers to be given the okay to reopen when Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally gave them the green light effective Aug. 17.
Spare Time Clifton Park, 1668 Route 9, a bowling and entertainment center on the Clifton Park and Halfmoon town line, took a few extra days to make sure everything was ready before reopening their lanes at noon Aug. 21. When they did it took all of six minutes before the sounds of pins being knocked down were ricocheting throughout the building.
Scott McGlauflin, the manager of the 22 lane establishment couldn’t have been happier. The business has been closed since March due to the governor’s New York State On Pause order and now, after five months, individuals, families, groups and leagues would be able to return to the alleys for some well-deserved recreation.
McGlauflin partnered with the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce for the noontime event that formally reopened the business to the community. He and Chamber president Todd Shimkus were joined by state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, state Sen Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston Spa.
Also taking part in the reopening festivities was special guest Joseph Gentiluomo. The 98-year-old Gentiluomo has a special relationship to the sport; he is the inventor of the modern bowling bowl.
With the sound of falling pins surrounding the group stood on the center’s middle lanes with bowling balls in hand for few remarks on the return of the sport to the Capital Region.
Leading the effort to get Saratoga County’s lanes open again from the business side was Shimkus. In a statement about the Spare Time reopening he noted how the Chamber has tried to rally the community to support various businesses as they reopened.
“We’re thrilled that our local elected officials have been with us at all of these reopening events as their presence means so much to local owners and employees,” he said. “At each of these events you can see how every local business is putting the health and safety of their employees and customers first which is also important as we continue to work to stop the spread of the virus so other industries can reopen too.”
The effort to get the Governor to allow bowling centers to reopen had not been easy. Jordan wrote two letters to the Governor asking him to look at proprietors’ plans for reopening. And on July 31 she and other elected officials joined with members of the New York Bowling Proprietors Association for a press conference at a bowling center in Glens Falls. That event resulted to a few of the bowling pins being sent to the Governor containing hand written messages.
At the Spare Time center’s reopening Jordan said it was awesome to see such businesses finally reopening.
“I sent him the letter asking that he look at the plans from the bowling association and then we had the event in Glens Falls and sent some pins to him,” she said. “After that I sent him another letter so I guess advocacy works; most of the time. This (closure) has cost the state’s bowling centers $90 million and the centers’ employees $30 million. (The pandemic) has been about lives but it has also been about livelihoods and reopening has been a lot about many of the livelihoods.”
Tedisco was another legislator who showed his support for reopening the lanes by signing on to a letter sent to the Governor. He referenced thee efforts in discussing the Governor’s reopening announcement.
“I think when enough legislators called (on the Governor), legislators who had met with owners, employees and constituents, and let him know that using CDC guidelines this could be done safely, he realized there’s a lot of diversity in how you open these businesses and still remain safe and he relented,” Tedisco said. “You have to put together a plan that shows it will be safe. Having something that offers recreation and socialization in a safe manner can only help with people’s wellbeing.”
It was Tedisco who heard about Gentiluomo’s input in modernizing the sport and asked him to attend the event.
Gentiluomo grew up on Foster Avenue in Schenectady and graduated from Mount Pleasant High School in 1941. After graduation he joined the U.S. Army where he earned the rank of staff sergeant and took part in the Battle of Okinawa. After his discharge he earned a degree from RPI, worked for GE, IBM, and Mechanical Technologies Inc. where he received 28 patents for his work, and eventually opened his own business.
Seated at a table a few steps from the bowling lanes Gentiluomo said he was never an avid bowler but was drawn to advance the design of the ball when he became interested in how it produced the kinetic energy needed to knock down pins.
“I invented my ball in 1980,” he said. “The old balls were molded; they had a heavy shell and a light core. I brought the weight inside. I derived an equation for the bowling ball. The old balls had rotational kinetic energy. My ball has translational kinetic energy; it slides before it starts to roll. That maintains more of the energy that’s created.”
Always an inventor, Gentiluomo also designed a golf ball that goes half the distance as the regular ball making it perfect for practice in smaller spaces.
Spare Time manager McGlauflin was happy to see bowlers on the lanes once again. As he watched Jordan, Tedisco and the others try their hands on the alleys he said the business will reduce the number of lanes in use by 50 percent per CDC protocols. High quality food and cold beverages will be available for order and will be delivered to bowlers at their individual lanes.
“The guidelines are being updated every day, sometime several times a day,” McGlauflin said. “We are in constant contact with the NY Bowling Proprietors Association and we will follow their directives. We are going to follow all the protocols and go over and above.”