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Mac the Knife

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As most of you old-timers know, I run an amateur sports organization here in Raleigh, NC.

This Sunday our organization's board of directors instructed me to put a plan together to launch a bowling league. Assuming my plan's approved, we'll launch this winter (Oct., Nov. or Dec. 2008). While I bowled sporadically up until my heart attack 5 1/2 years ago, I've never done anything on an organized basis beyond playing in a league.

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or knowledge on the following topics they'd be willing to share, as they may be helpful in launching this successfully:

(1) What's a normal, reasonable per-team entry fee for a bowling team? I know what our costs will be, but am fearful of aiming too high and scaring away people, or too low and losing money.

(2) If you were starting a new league from scratch and wanted to make it unique, what features would you employ to attract people to it? I was thinking of having a unique league standings methodology - a point system that awarded points not just for average score, but also for matches won, individual games won on a head-to-head basis, average strikes per game, average spares per game, stuff like that.

(3) What types of awards do you think a proper bowling league should present? I mean there's a league championship award of course, but some leagues have awards they present every week. If you play in a league, what do they do? What types of awards do you think a league should have?

(4) We'll likely have to promote this league heavily in order to get adequate participation. What kind of branding/marketing strategy would you suggest? What would you name the league? What color scheme would you employ? How would you go about recruiting players?

I have some ideas on each of these points so it's not like I'm asking anyone to do this for me... I'm just trying to collect as many ideas as I can in an effort to present the best ones, thereby hopefully making this league a success next winter. Any thoughts or suggestions, no matter how silly they may seem (we've done lots of silly things in our other programs over the years), would be welcome and appreciated!

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As most of you old-timers know, I run an amateur sports organization here in Raleigh, NC.

This Sunday our organization's board of directors instructed me to put a plan together to launch a bowling league. Assuming my plan's approved, we'll launch this winter (Oct., Nov. or Dec. 2008). While I bowled sporadically up until my heart attack 5 1/2 years ago, I've never done anything on an organized basis beyond playing in a league.

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or knowledge on the following topics they'd be willing to share, as they may be helpful in launching this successfully:

(1) What's a normal, reasonable per-team entry fee for a bowling team? I know what our costs will be, but am fearful of aiming too high and scaring away people, or too low and losing money.

(2) If you were starting a new league from scratch and wanted to make it unique, what features would you employ to attract people to it? I was thinking of having a unique league standings methodology - a point system that awarded points not just for average score, but also for matches won, individual games won on a head-to-head basis, average strikes per game, average spares per game, stuff like that.

(3) What types of awards do you think a proper bowling league should present? I mean there's a league championship award of course, but some leagues have awards they present every week. If you play in a league, what do they do? What types of awards do you think a league should have?

(4) We'll likely have to promote this league heavily in order to get adequate participation. What kind of branding/marketing strategy would you suggest? What would you name the league? What color scheme would you employ? How would you go about recruiting players?

I have some ideas on each of these points so it's not like I'm asking anyone to do this for me... I'm just trying to collect as many ideas as I can in an effort to present the best ones, thereby hopefully making this league a success next winter. Any thoughts or suggestions, no matter how silly they may seem (we've done lots of silly things in our other programs over the years), would be welcome and appreciated!

1- How long are you going to run the league in terms of weeks? Is the fee per week going per team or per bowler? Are you looking to have a large money payout to teams or individals at the end of the season?

2- Is the league going to men , women or mixed? What type of bowler are looking for?( competitive? rec? family and friends?) Are you going to go handicap or scratch? How bowlers per team?

3-&4- Answers to these questions would be best answered after the first two questions are determined.

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1 - The league I bowl in, we pay $15 per bowler (4) per week for a 29-week season (September through April). A lot of that relies on two things--your goals for year-end money/prizes/etc, and your lineage costs from the lanes.

2 - I wouldn't go too crazy, but a "match play" league is always interesting. I'll have to ask how the big-roller league handles theirs, but I think they a 25-point system per week. In most regular leagues, the standings are based on seven points per week--two per game, plus one for series total.

3 - Most leagues award in a combination of trophies and cash at the end of the season. Our league's gone straight cash these days. Bowling shirts for the champions would be a cool touch. If you're planning to be USBC sanctioned (which I strongly recommend), USBC also offers awards based on game or series performance, though they're not a lot.

4 - Partner with the lanes to promote it in-house. Otherwise, what kind of demographic are you targeting? Are you looking for existing bowlers, or will your league be more geared towards new bowlers? Those are the type of questions that would help you market it, not merely the fact that it's a bowling league.

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1 - The league I bowl in, we pay $15 per bowler (4) per week for a 29-week season (September through April). A lot of that relies on two things--your goals for year-end money/prizes/etc, and your lineage costs from the lanes.

2 - I wouldn't go too crazy, but a "match play" league is always interesting. I'll have to ask how the big-roller league handles theirs, but I think they a 25-point system per week. In most regular leagues, the standings are based on seven points per week--two per game, plus one for series total.

3 - Most leagues award in a combination of trophies and cash at the end of the season. Our league's gone straight cash these days. Bowling shirts for the champions would be a cool touch. If you're planning to be USBC sanctioned (which I strongly recommend), USBC also offers awards based on game or series performance, though they're not a lot.

4 - Partner with the lanes to promote it in-house. Otherwise, what kind of demographic are you targeting? Are you looking for existing bowlers, or will your league be more geared towards new bowlers? Those are the type of questions that would help you market it, not merely the fact that it's a bowling league.

$15 per bowler, per week was about what we were thinking, but only over a 12- or 14-week period. The lanes we've chosen are charging us $10/each, so I figure a 50% 'mark up' leaves us room for buying trophies and what-not. We hadn't discussed a cash prize, but I'm not sure that's viable for a start-up league anyway. The organization's goal for the league in year one would be small - get it running, get it to break-even financially. Nothing more.

I was contemplating a 10-point system (2 for each game plus 4 for the series), with standings denoting series won/lost, individual games won/lost, points from the system, average handicapped team total, average straight team total, and for individual players their average, average strikes per game and average spares per game.

Just out of curiosity, why do you recommend USBC sanctioning, KJ?

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Whatever you do, do NOT run this league concurrently with the PBA. They will run you into the ground, and your future antitrust suit will only end in disaster.

Also, concentrate on southern-US bowling hotbeds.

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Whatever you do, do NOT run this league concurrently with the PBA. They will run you into the ground, and your future antitrust suit will only end in disaster.

Also, concentrate on southern-US bowling hotbeds.

But... But I already have a TV deal in place and have lined up guys like Donald Trump, Jerry Argovitz and Fred Bullard in the ownership group! :D

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I was in a bowling league for a few years. We had awards for the following individual accomplishments:

Highest string (obviously no higher than 300), highest string with handicap (can be over 300), highest series (3 strings), highest above average (usually only earned after midseason and averages are pretty much established) and most improved (again, based on how much a handicap is dropped after it's been extablished). Also, you would have highest average over the whole season. That comes out to 6 awards.

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Whatever you do, do NOT run this league concurrently with the PBA. They will run you into the ground, and your future antitrust suit will only end in disaster.

Also, concentrate on southern-US bowling hotbeds.

But... But I already have a TV deal in place and have lined up guys like Donald Trump, Jerry Argovitz and Fred Bullard in the ownership group! :D

I would hold your draft before the PBA draft and try to sign a few big names to drum up publicity. Shoot for the Spiffenboffen Trophy winner, assuming you can get him to leave college early.

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Not really related but maybe a prize for the fastest ball?

Fastest ball? Wouldn't we need to get hold of a radar gun or some such thing for that? :)

Bowling alleys, well, down here anyway, have a radar gun thing, where the ball speed comes up on the overhead tv. Might be a bit different over in the US of A.

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Some places have those, some places don't. They're not overly reliable. Besides, that's really a a lame thing to aim for.

As for USBC sanctioning, it provides a baseline set of playing rules and equipment standards, bonding (though that may not be as much a concern for your organization), an awards structure, etc. The USBC website can explain it better than I can.

jp - "String"? Bwuh?

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Some places have those, some places don't. They're not overly reliable. Besides, that's really a a lame thing to aim for.

As for USBC sanctioning, it provides a baseline set of playing rules and equipment standards, bonding (though that may not be as much a concern for your organization), an awards structure, etc. The USBC website can explain it better than I can.

jp - "String"? Bwuh?

Yes, string. 10 frames = 1 string. 3 strings = 1 game.

Unless you call a string a game, and 3 strings a match. Not sure. We've always called them strings.

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Some places have those, some places don't. They're not overly reliable. Besides, that's really a a lame thing to aim for.

As for USBC sanctioning, it provides a baseline set of playing rules and equipment standards, bonding (though that may not be as much a concern for your organization), an awards structure, etc. The USBC website can explain it better than I can.

jp - "String"? Bwuh?

I've never seen one in any bowling center I've ever been in, but yeah, I'd lean away from that idea just on the thought there could be errors.

I'll look into USBC Kev, but what we may wind up doing is using their playing rules and equipment standards as a model for our own. We did the same thing when we launched our flag football league 7 years ago - we pored through every football and flag football rule book we could find, took what we felt were the best elements of each, and sort of mashed them together into one. My thinking is we'll do the same with bowling to an extent.

I'm reluctant to have our organization commit to cash prizes (we run things on a shoestring budget generally, keeping as little cash in reserve as we can get away with - not smart I admit) but it sounds like that might be the only way to go.

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Yes, string. 10 frames = 1 string. 3 strings = 1 game.

Unless you call a string a game, and 3 strings a match. Not sure. We've always called them strings.

I've never heard that term. 10 frames is a game, and a set of games (usually 3) is a series.

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Yeah, can't say I'd heard of a 'string' either, but I got the jist of it.

I've personally got it in my head that the season's going to run from October - January, wrapping up the week between the AFC/NFC title games and the Super Bowl, though the board could override me on that. The "10 point" system idea has been refined to a 2.5 points per game, plus a 2.5 point bonus for the three-game series set-up. I'm actually giving thought to the idea of an MLB 1981-style 'split season,' with a first-half and second-half title and playoff qualifiers - the idea being to keep drop-outs to a minimum. I'm not sure how that'd work if the same team qualified for both halves though.

$15 per player per week, payable in two half-season installments seems logical, though I'm afraid we're going to get hosed in the second half of the season by doing it that way. We probably won't do cash prizes (the league is intended to be recreational far more than competitive), but we'll probably hand out a boatload of awards - maybe a weekly award for high game and series, seasonal awards for highest average, most team (standings) points a la the NHL Presidents' Cup, championship awards of course... if there are any other suggestions on this, please let me know.

The t-shirts are also a good idea, though I hate to admit that. I buy them for those flag football teams that for whatever reason refuse to do it themselves. It's a PITA. Last year I ordered shirts for 60% of the league. This year I decided if they wanted me to order their shirts for them, they were going to pay - $200 for 12 shirts that cost the organization around $85, to be precise. I still had to order for four teams. But anyway, with a single design we should be okay doing it.

I was actually thinking of suggesting the name "Major League Bowling" for the league, just as a goof. A good name really escapes me at the moment, but it could be due to all the meds I'm taking lately - my brains have been tapioca for much of the past 2 months. :)

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T-shirts? Nah. BOWLING shirts. Stylin' bowling shirts. Seriously.

As for the half-season, that's actually pretty standard. The league I bowl in actually does quarters, with a four-team rolloff the last week to determine the champions.

If you're going to do 2.5 for each game and 2.5 for total, why not just simplify that to 1 for each?

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