Bowling Is A Great Way To Have Fun And Stay Out Of The Summer Sun

LIVING

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Summer fun with the family does not always mean heading for the great outdoors. How about packing up the family and making a visit to Rim Country Lanes for some bowling?

Owner Bob Baker said, "It's something the whole family can do ... Bowling at their individual levels, everyone can have fun."

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Tamra Henze of Apache Junction watches her bowling ball roll down a lane at Rim Country Lanes Saturday afternoon. She was just one of 285 bowlers who competed in Arizona's Champion of Champions bowling tournament. She said the best part of the tournament is "meeting all kinds of different people."

Baker and his wife, Julie Ann, bought the bowling alley last August. They have since essentially brought a whole new bowling center to town. Just about everything has been changed. There are new lanes and the equipment has all been upgraded and updated. There was a single computer in the place last summer when the Bakers moved in, now there are 29, said Baker, a 12-year veteran with Intel.

This includes 10 state of the art units in the PC Games Den. There is a new arcade and this weekend, Rim Country Lanes had a grand opening celebration for its new lounge, which features the old bowling lanes as its dance floor, Baker said.

While Baker has only been in the bowling business the 11 months since buying the facility, and admits to being something less than a star bowler, he has observed the benefits the game provides.

It is a sport in which anyone, even the handicapped, can participate -- even toddlers since Baker has added bumpers to a few lanes where youngsters can bowl during birthday parties and other special events.

"For senior citizens it develops strength and flexibility in the upper body. When you throw about 55 balls, it's a pretty good workout. It also helps improve bone density. I saw a study where senior citizens who played 10 games or more over an eight-month (period) had an increase in bone density as much as 4- to 5-percent," Baker said.

As for adults and youths, while bowling is not a demanding sport, it gets people out and moving around.

"(After a game) you do get tired," Baker said.

For those who are especially health conscious, Baker provides several opportunities to participate in non-smoking bowling at Rim Country Lanes. He does not allow smoking during youth bowling, nor can players light up when Laser Bowling is under way from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. There are also non-smoking leagues, Baker, a non-smoker himself, said.

The social opportunities offered by bowling is one of its biggest draws, Baker said. And, from studies he has seen, it is also one of its biggest health benefits. The more active an individual is, taking part in social gatherings, interacting with others in a friendly environment, the less likely they are to become ill.

He said a lot of senior citizens bowl. In fact, when Baker and his wife first bought the bowling alley, senior citizens were about the only people who came to the place, he said.

"We have done a lot to change the center. We have new lanes, a new scoring system, new lane machines, plus a full-time mechanic to maintain the machines, so their reliability has increased," Baker said.

This weekend, Rim Country Lanes hosted its biggest tournament with top bowlers from the Mesa Bowling Association and the Mesa Valley Women's Bowling Association competing. There were 57 teams and 285 bowlers at Rim Country Lanes in four shifts.

"There were no major failures (needing to make bowlers switch lanes), so that is a good testament to what we've done to the machines and our mechanic," Baker said.

In addition to the added attractions and upgrades, Baker said they have done a lot of cleaning at the bowling alley and more improvements are planned. All the changes have made Rim Country Lanes a bright, clean and inviting place to bring the family for an afternoon or evening of fun.

"We are moving toward making it a more family oriented center, plus it is a great place for birthday, church and other parties," Baker said.

Among the future improvements will be a "Party Zone" where revelers can sit apart from the other bowlers and observers. Currently, when a birthday party is held at Rim Country Lanes, its participants are seated at the tables overlooking the lanes. Plus look for painting, roof repair and more in the future at Rim Country Lanes.

Open bowling is offered most of the time during the summer, Baker said. Until the fall leagues start in September, Rim Country Lanes is open from noon to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; from noon to 1 a.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday; and from noon to 8 p.m., Sunday.

Coming up at the bowling alley is the annual Big Brother Big Sister bowl-a-thon, Bowl for Kids, Aug. 10, followed by a No-Tap Tournament (where nine pins down is counted as a strike) Aug. 23-24.

Rim Country Lanes has 16 lanes. For more information, call 474-9589.

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