By Ferris McDaniel | LSU Student
Millions of dollars are beginning to roll down the lanes of Baton Rouge.
That's what Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, expects the approximately 60,000 bowlers and their 40,000 traveling mates will feed into the city during the duration of the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, which begin Saturday, Feb. 11, and run through July 9.
The Baton Rouge River Center has been transformed into a 48-lane bowling alley with vendors selling souvenir bowling balls, pins and shirts.
The 151-day tournament will see an average of 900 bowlers, plus guests, 19 hours a day, seven days a week. Tournament officials estimate the event will bring $100 million to the area.
The annual USBC bowling championship was held in Baton Rouge in 2005 and quickly was chosen in 2006 to host the event again in 2012, he said.
Arrigo said more opportunity for spending is available this time because of new restaurants, clubs, Perkins Rowe shopping center and the Shaw Center.
Sandy Simon, director of projects for Visit Baton Rouge, said a campaign, called Bowl Baton Rouge, was created to inform Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes about the championship in preparation for the 2005 tournament. The same campaign is being used this year. The website is www.bowlbatonrouge.com.
"We implemented a program such as this in 2005 that was so successful that the USBC themselves used it as a case study for bidding cities," Simon said.
As part of the community awareness program, Arrigo, his staff members, Jerry Stovall with the Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation, Mayor Kip Holden, architect Raymond "Skipper" Post and River Center representatives traveled to Milwaukee in 2006 to bid on the 2012 tournament.
"It's unusual for them to return to a city other than Reno — where they conduct it on a regular basis," Arrigo said. "We did a good job of convincing them to come back."
Now, any city desiring to host a championship, is required to have a local awareness campaign because of Baton Rouge's precedent, she said.
The program works by sending restaurants, hotels, taxi services, dry-cleaners, barber shops, office supplies stores and any establish willing to offer service to the bowlers a Bowl Baton Rouge logo to signify tournament participants of a "bowler friendly establishment," Simon said.
"The whole purpose is [for the bowlers to] know that businesses recognize that they're in town and are prepared to serve them."
A hospitality training program called "Seein' Red" is utilized at participating establishments as part of the campaign, she said.
Simon said information specialists train the service providers' staffs on what to see and do in Baton Rouge, how to maneuver the city and how to obtain information to make their experience in the city superlative.
Economics aside, Arrigo believes hosting the USBC championship instills "a certain amount of pride in the community — that we can host a major event like this and everyone leave happy."