Top 25 things vanishing from America: # 11 -- Bowling alleys

This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

While you may be seeing your local bowling alley closing down or getting very old and decrepit, the sport of bowling is not disappearing -- it's morphing into other things. Most people think of bowling as what has become a tradition in U.S. -- ten pins at the end of an alley that get hit by balls that have two or more drilled holes in them. BowlingBalls.US claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling allies. Today most new bowling allies are part of facilities for all types or recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades, climbing walls and glow miniature golf. Bowling lanes also have been added to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts, and gambling casinos.

If you've got the urge to bowl and want to find a bowling alley near you, go to Bowling Centers USA. New York has the most bowling alleys with 410 listed in the directory. Following clsoe behind are Michigan (393), Wisconsin (356) and Illinois (368). Only Washington DC has zero bowling alleys left, but those living in DC can travel to Maryland (95) and Virginia (101) if they feel the need to bowl.

Yes, ten pin bowling still has its followers, but there are other forms played both inside and outside. Popular indoor versions of bowling include candlepin bowling (eastern Canada and New England) duckpin bowling (mid-Atlantic and southern New England states), five-pin bowling (Canada), nine-pin skittles (Europe) and bumper bowling (primarily played at children's parties). Popular outdoor bowling varieties include lawn bowling, bocce ball, and petanque.

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Believe it or not bowling is the world's oldest sport and some believe it can be traced back to 5200 B.C. with evidence that the Egyptians played some form of bowling, according to Modern bowling's introduction can be credited to the German monks who introduced bowling as a religious ritual to the masses in 200 to 300 A.D. Martin Luther standardized the game under the name "kegels" with nine pins. During these religious ceremonies parishioners placed their kegels (a pin that was carried for protection and sport) at the end of a long lane and then were told to roll a rock at the kegel. If they successfully knocked over the kegel their sins were forgiven.

Bowling greens became popular in the 1300s among wealthy European royalty. The first indoor bowling center was built in London in 1455. but the British bowling centers were closed in 1555 because they were thought to be used for "unlawful assembly."

Bowling was bought to the U.S. in the 17th century by Dutch colonists. By that time the game included nine pins set in a triangle. It was regularly played in an area of New York called "Bowling Green," which still uses that name today. The first indoor lanes in the U.S. were built in New York City in the 1840s called Knickerbocker Alleys. These indoor bowling alleys cropped up throughout the country. The tenth pin was added to the game when laws were introduced to outlaw "nine-pins" because the game was tied to gambling. The tenth pin was added and the name of the game changed to bowling to keep the game alive.

Well the game just won't die and the Professional Bowlers Association is still alive and well. You can visit their website for the latest sport news about bowling.
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