But the local lanes keep on keeping on, recently opening to hold afternoon meet-up games for seniors, running their Rock and Glo bowling nights during the weekend, and just doing whatever they can to offer some semblance of normalcy for their regular rollers.
Not perfect, by any means. But for owner Jeannette Cole, keeping things going has been a matter of finding a way, whatever it may be.
“I would say our bowling revenue is down 90 per cent from last year, which isn’t great, but it is what it is,” Cole said. “And to be honest, I don’t know what I would have done without the wage subsidy. That has been a real tremendous help, because otherwise, there wasn’t enough to cover wages let alone power, water, property taxes, all of that… I’m just glad we’re established. Some of the smaller centres around the province have changed their ownership just within the last year or two with COVID and I can’t even imagine the struggle it is for some of them.”
South Hill Lanes shut down completely Mar. 17 of last year and remained closed until late August, when they were able to open on a limited basis. League play at half capacity was actually underway when the current set of restrictions took hold during the start of the second wave in November, bringing another serious setback that has only recently begun to let up.
“December is usually your busiest month, you do just a ton of Christmas parties and we couldn’t do any of that,” Cole said. “The bar sales and everything just go sky high, it’s usually your best month, but it was probably my worst month this year.
“Even when our leagues did come back in the fall it was only half-capacity, so a 16-team league became an eight-team league and a lot of teams just said they weren’t coming back until next year. So I’m hopeful they’ll come back, but once you lose them sometimes it’s hard to get them back.”
The good thing is, as the pandemic slowly begins to wane, things are also slowly returning to normal.
The aforementioned Club 55-plus bowling has been taking place on weekday afternoons from Monday through Thursday, with a recent boost of being able to run at half capacity, eight lanes instead of six.
Rock N Glo bowling is also a regular event every weekend, drawing in folks looking for a fun outing during the era of COVID.
All in as safe an environment as possible, of course, which has made for plenty to do even with fewer people in the building.
“We used to have all of the house balls just on the lanes, but we don’t do that anymore, we have them on the counter and one of our staff takes them out and puts them on a lane when you sign in,” Cole explained. “Then when you’re done, we take them and wash them in bleach, disinfect them and get them ready for the next group of people who come along.
Then everything has to be disinfected, all the tables and chairs, everything, every time. So it’s a lot of extra work.”
For the meantime, Cole plans to keep soldiering along and taking things in stride as the pandemic continues on. And as things begin to come around to normalcy, South Hill Bowling Centre will follow.
“If we can just start off with a full, full-on everything back to normal in September, that’s what I expect to see,” she said. “Until everyone is vaccinated and the curve is really flattened, I don’t see them saying open up… we’re not there yet. But when things do get back to normal, I’m really hoping everyone will be supportive and help us maintain a bowling centre in Moose Jaw.”
If you’re interested in hitting the lanes, contact the South Hill Bowling Centre at (306) 693-0955 for more information and to reserve your spot!