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Hales Gymnasium Gets Funkadelic

by Neal Schindler

Pool sharks and alley cats are in for a multicolored, glow-in-the-dark, funkadelic experience at the new and improved tables and lanes at Hales Annex.

Established in 1963, the lanes have received their biggest facelift ever, an extensive project that includes underground ball returns, a powerful new sound system formerly used at the Cat in the Cream coffeehouse, a disco ball and believe it or not, glow-in-the-dark carpeting.

This project marks the first time in the history of bowling at Oberlin that funding from an outside source, ‹ one beyond the profits earned by the lanes themselves, has been used for improvements. According to Tom Reid OC Œ80, Assistant Director of the Student Union and legendary bowling instructor, some of the upgrades were aesthetic in nature while others came out of safety concerns.

The subterranean ball returns, for example, are ³the centerpiece² of the renovation project and serve two separate functions. First of all, they prevent bright-colored balls from distracting other bowlers as they return. In the words of Reid, ³The advantage is that the ball is kept out of the bowlerıs view.² In addition, they also eliminate a problem all too common with the earlier, above-ground system. Balls would refuse to return promptly, causing puzzled bowlers to walk down the lanes to investigate, only to be suddenly confronted by a speeding ball headed straight for their fingers.

Reid feels that bowling at Oberlin is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, a recent surge of strong interest on all levels. Among these are intercollegiate competition, league bowling, and recreational games. Of course, this zenith had its parallel in the nadir of the late 1980s, an era of despair and uncertainty for Oberlinıs beloved lanes. According to Reid, 1989 was a particularly dark year. Requests for additional funding for improvements were declined, and the lanes, which were just barely breaking even, were left to fend for themselves.

Hales Annex has always been a key town-gown meeting place, one of the few areas around campus where Oberlin students and residents can spend time together in an informal atmosphere. Nowadays, students canıt seem to get enough of the lanes, and business is booming, relatively speaking.

Senior Jillian Settle, a member of Bowling I, the class that Reid happens to teach, had never visited the lanes before but joined Reids class due to positive reviews from other students. She remarked, ³I just knew about them because Tom Reid told us about them.² Settle went on to describe the lanes as new and shiny and had plenty to say about the influence of a brand-spanking new aesthetic, ³For me [the improvements] add to the game. They make it more fun.²

She proved equally enthusiastic on the subject of underground ball returns.

³They make it more enticing to bowl. I like that kind because itıs kind of mysterious.² Regarding the addition of a disco ball and a luminous carpet, not to mention the souped-up speaker system, Settle had said, ³I canıt wait to go disco bowling... itıs like bowling in style.²

The funding for these incredible improvements came from the Capital Expense Budget, a pool of money tapped by departments that need to make individual expenditures of more than $1000. Requests are made and prioritized according to urgency, and the 37 year-old lanes have finally received their due.

Not to be outdone, the pool tables have received a makeover as well. The billiard area of Hales Annex is right behind the Cat, and a visitor to this shark-filled realm will discover that each table now has its own color of cloth, with matching overhead lights to follow shortly. In addition, the tables have been re-bumpered and the cues have all been repaired, so players can no longer blame the equipment for bad angles or missed shots. In the words of Douglas Diesenhaus, an employee at the pool room, ³The school has made huge investments in these improvements, and everybody involved is very excited about the new developments.²

As if this were not enough excitement, Hales now offers glow bowling on Saturday nights from ten oıclock until midnight.

Big Lebowskis and little ones alike should not miss this opportunity to experience ³All Bowlers Under One Stereophonic Groove,² plus black lights and the aforementioned disco ball. Will Hales Annex ever replace the ŒSco as the number one college-sponsored party zone of all time? Perhaps not, but one thing is for sure: it has never before seemed this cool to bowl.

Who knows, it might even bring about a resurgence of actual dating at Oberlin. Just picture it: ten frames followed by a romantic walk through Tappan Square. The Bowl Œnı Stroll.

Hey, it could happen.

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Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 2, September 15, 2000

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