YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Doug Kuberski carries a metal pole as he walks behind the pinsetters at Holiday Bowl in Struthers to push a jammed ball toward the return area.
Kuberski, the Youngstown State University women’s bowling head coach, says there’s a good relationship between the alley’s proprietors and his Penguins team. On this busy afternoon, there are about 60 school-aged children occupying the Holiday Bowl staff.
“It’s a nice relationship where we help each other out,” he says.
Tom Eframedes and his wife, Rose Marie, have owned Holiday Bowl for the past 34 years. He says their facility is open to the YSU team all year to help the players prepare for tournaments.
YSU opens its 2021-22 season by hosting 12 teams at the Motiv Penguin Classic Oct. 15-17 at Holiday Bowl. The tournament did not occur last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Eframedes says he charged the teams attending the Penguin Classic just $3 per game.
The Penguins advanced to the National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Championship Final Four this past spring.
He says having a prestigious team such as YSU at his establishment brings in customers to watch and purchase refreshments – giving him a 5% to 10% boost in revenue.
“It helps everybody,” Eframedes says. “It generates income. Let’s put it that way.”
Coach Kuberski says the NCAA prefers tournaments to rent the whole facility, which means 12 teams occupy the 36-lane Holiday Bowl for a nine-hour day.
“They charged me per game, a very reasonable rate,” he says. “We’re very fortunate. We have a very locally owned, family owned business here. They really care about bowling.
“Obviously financials are very important to them. But beyond that, they just care about the team. They care about just the game of bowling itself. It’s a very reasonable price to rent out for those three days.”
For the Mahoning Valley, it sparks some revenue for area restaurants and hotels.
“I think it will be a boon to the economy for sure,” Kuberski says.
YSU executive director of athletics Ron Strollo says the budgets for the team are $5,000 for recruiting, $10,000 for equipment and $30,000 for travel.
Strollo says the upcoming tournament keeps his team from missing classes and generates revenue for local companies.
“It’s kind of a win-win,” Strollo says.
The bowling team has been in existence since the 2016-17 season and Kuberski has been coach since December 2018.
The NCAA says women’s bowling teams are allotted up to five full scholarships. YSU is almost up to five with a roster of 10 bowlers, because most team members are on partial scholarships. Two partial scholarships usually equal one full scholarship.
“We’ve been working to get toward that five number since I’ve been here,” Kuberski says. “There’s been a commitment by Ron Strollo and our department to do that and we’re very close to being at that five-max capacity right now.”
However, there are also plenty of academic scholarships available for the bowlers. University tuition is around $10,000.
“So YSU is actually a very affordable university,” says Megan Grams, a junior from Michigan City, Ind.
“You have a lot of academic scholarships available to you. If you have a pretty good GPA standing in high school and do extracurriculars, you can pretty much get any scholarship.”
The Youngstown State University athletics department provides the women’s bowling team with funds, but it has fundraisers a couple of times a year to supplement its coffers.
This team, like others on campus, raises money to support its programs.
“We’re able to provide them a base budget,” Strollo says. “It takes care of some of their needs, but not all of their needs.”
The local bowling community gives the Penguins team both financial and moral support. The tournament at the Holiday Bowl is the only one YSU plays in state this fall and spring. But the NCAA Tournament in 2022 is in Columbus. Only the remaining top four teams advance to this level.
The team travels to East Coast locations and as far away as Texas, Louisiana and Nebraska. YSU plays in the Southland Bowling League with teams from Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Indiana.
Madyson Marx, a YSU sophomore bowler from the St. Paul, Minn., area, says she appreciates the support she receives from her school’s athletics department.
“We get a lot of amenities and support from the school itself,” she says.
Grams says she was surrounded by bowlers most of her life. Coming to Youngstown made her feel like home with its bowling community.
This October’s tournament in Struthers will give her some solace after seeing empty chairs at most of her tournaments during the spring.
“It’s going to be nice being able to turn around from shots and not only see our team, but our families and friends and other spectators there behind us cheering us on as well,” Grams says.
FUTURE OF BOWLING
As far as the local bowling scene goes, Eframedes, owner of the Holiday Bowl, says his monthly bowling leagues have dropped from 43 to 27 in the last 20 years.
“Bowling is not what it used to be,” he says.
However, he retains business from The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley, RaeArc Industries Inc. and other groups.
Holiday Bowl hosts a SuperBowl BlowOut for high school bowlers one week before the NFL’s championship game – filling 34 of the 36 lanes. The last time the event was held was February 2020, before the pandemic.
“This place is wall-to-wall people,” Eframedes says. “You cannot even walk around. In fact, I can’t even keep up with the pop machine.”
Marx sees the school-aged children on the other side of the Holiday Bowl during this Sept. 21 practice, hopefully seeing the future of the sport and a sense of coming out of the pandemic.
“I really enjoy seeing a lot of kids at the bowling alley,” she says. “I don’t mind being close anymore because being spaced was not normal for me. I feel like we’re back to normal.”
Pictured: Madyson Marx, coach Doug Kuberski and Megan Grams take a break from practice at the Holiday Bowl.