For Lakewood Ranch’s next big entertainment project, will a developer strike with a bowling alley?
MVP Sports and Social has offered a bowling league for its athletes since 2017. The league, held on Friday nights, has become a big hit for the organization with more than 720 people participating since its inception according to cofounder Chris McComas.
It’s not strictly a league consisting of Lakewood Ranch members, but a good number of participants are from Lakewood Ranch, where you can live, work and play — unless you’re a bowler.
It speaks to bowling’s popularity that so many Lakewood Ranch residents travel to Bradenton’s Bowlero, which is approximately 15 miles away, to participate in McComas’ league. It can take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes depending on the traffic conditions.
Yet Lakewood Ranch residents keep signing up.
Ed Kelly is one of them. Kelly, 57, said he has played in MVP’s league for three years and does not plan on stopping. Despite not considering himself to be much of an bowler — his average score is around 135, he said — he has purchased his own bowling bag and ball.
“I’m a big competitor,” Kelly said. “Even though this league is just for fun, I can compete against myself. I get to see friends. It’s just a good night out.”
Kelly said he started bowling back in the 1980s but fell out of the sport for most of his adult life. He had so much fun competing in MVP’s other sports that he decided to pick up bowling again. He has not looked back — and if there was a bowling alley closer to his Lakewood Ranch home, he would play even more often.
“The only negative (to the league) is the drive,” Kelly said. “It is a pain in the butt. I’m an active person. I organize cornhole games and bocce games and pickleball. My friends are active. I can see them wanting to play if it was closer.”
Riva Das and Danny Markulic are a married couple from Lakewood Ranch. They, too, have been bowling with MVP for three years as a way to meet new people and have a few drinks each week. On June 24, Markulic, 40, was bowling in a custom shirt and with a bowling glove in his right hand. He has embraced the sport, all but the drive he has to take to play. Das, 36, was not bowling with him on this particular day, only talking with friends. She is pregnant with the couple’s first child, who is due in October.
The couple has developed such a love of bowling that when deciding where to hold a gender reveal party, there was only one logical answer — Bowlero.
“Bowling has kind of become our thing since we started with the league,” Das said. “It’s an activity we can enjoy together and share with our friends. It was unique and so fun to do the reveal that way.”
Das said the Bowlero employees spray painted the couple’s pins blue for the occasion. Das and Markulic are having a boy.
Their love for the game is obvious, and they are thankful for Bowlero’s help with the party, but Das and Markulic said they would prefer to have a bowling option closer to home.
“I would probably go every night if it was there,” Markulic said. He was joking, but his sentiment was real. Markulic said the sport is tough to beat in terms of low-key nighttime activities to do when you need to relax.
“Let’s go throw a couple balls, let’s have a couple drinks, let’s hang out,” Markulic said. “It’s like going to a diner for coffee talk. Except you’re bowling.”
The dream of a bowling alley closer to Lakewood Ranch is not strictly hypothetical. Locals have hoped that projects such as the East District of The Mall at University Town Center will consider a bowling center. So far, none of the plans have come to fruition, but Lakewood Ranch bowling fans remain hopeful that the idea won’t be thrown in the gutter forever.
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