New lanes bowl over old alley

By Chris Nelson

The Huskie Den is in the process of establishing itself as one of the premier bowling alleys in the area as it replaces the common wood surface with new-age synthetic material.

Already outfitted with electronic scoring for all of its lanes, the den is taking yet another step in keeping with the pace of modern bowling by using the synthetic surface.

According to Dan Swan, manager of the lanes located within the Holmes Student Center, this replacement is a major achievement for the sport of bowling at NIU.

“We’ve been working on getting these (synthetic) lanes for about five or six years,” Swan said. “It is a big upgrade.”

Swan stated the den is one of the few bowling alleys in the area to have synthetic lanes. The nearest such lanes can be found only in areas as far away as West Chicago and Rockford.

Swan speculated that although the synthetic lanes are at present hard to find, they represent the future of bowling surfaces.

“The standard wood lanes need to be resurfaced annually at a cost of $5,000 to $6,000,” said Swan.

The synthetic lanes require no such scheduled maintenance. Couple this with a ten-year guarantee from the maker of the surface, and the lanes prove to be very cost-effective.

“We will be saving significantly without the resurfacing expense. The lanes will pay for themselves in 10 or 11 years,” Swan said, adding the den received an “excellent” price for the surface from the Brunswick organization.

The initial costs for both the wood and synthetic surfaces are essentially the same, further distinguishing the prudence of choosing the synthetic surface.

Swan said the common bowler will notice little difference between the wood and synthetic surfaces. He did note, however, that bowlers should use caution on the newly-refurbished lanes.

“We’re urging people to slow down on the approach. The surface can be a little bit slippery,” Swan said. “We try to remind patrons to test their approaches.”

Swan also mentioned that expert bowlers, or “purists” who favor wood lanes, may notice some differences.

“Some purists are disappointed because the feel of the (synthetic) lane is consistent from runway to pins,” Swan said. He explained that wood surfaces tend to yield soft and hard points that experienced bowlers exploit when playing a game. The new durable surface will effectively eliminate such variations within a lane.

Swan made it clear that his intention is to create a modern bowling environment while keeping prices low for users.

The resurfacing is to be completed by early next week. Most of the lanes already have been finished, so the den remains open throughout the remaining process.

Swan spoke with enthusiasm as he talked of the future plans of the den, including its hosting of a national bowling tournament in February, and an interest in some aesthetic changes to make the area look more modern. He also mentioned the possibility of a grand reopening ceremony for NIU’s cutting-edge bowling facility.

Student center Director Judd Baker, himself a bowler, shared Swan’s interest in the facility improvements as he toured the den Thursday afternoon.

“These lanes are going to be a nice improvement when they’re done,” he said.