The weeks certainly have flown by since our construction crew first arrived at the Baton Rouge River Center in December for the 45-day build that transformed the convention space from an empty venue into a cutting-edge setting for the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
The transformation of the River Center included 48 championship lanes downstairs, four Showcase Lanes and office space upstairs, pro shop and vendor areas, a merchandise store, spectator seating, concessions area and other amenities for more than 60,000 bowlers from all 50 states.
Every step of the way, we were encouraged by excited locals from a supportive Baton Rouge community, who welcomed a steady stream of competitors each day of the event’s near-record 151-day run. The city once again rolled out the red carpet as our bowlers and staff became part of the community for more than seven months.
From the first ball rolled on Feb. 11, to the sound of the last pins crashing down July 10, we have never felt more welcomed or appreciated than we have in Baton Rouge. The food, shopping, signs welcoming us to establishments, the genuine acceptance from the community — these were just some of the local pluses of this great city and its surrounding area. Our bowlers also commented often on how much they loved being here and felt appreciated.
The media response has been stellar, too. We were excited to see such an interest and appreciation for the individual bowling celebrities and economic impact our tournament makes. Kent Lowe and The Advocate sports staff kept the tournament front and center from the start, and the local TV stations also kept the event relevant. Thank you for keeping us on the minds of your residents and our sport in their thoughts. Many residents came by just to see what the tournament was all about, and we appreciate each and every visit.
We enjoyed the sights and sounds of Baton Rouge and the nearby LSU campus, the history they represent and so many aspects we would not otherwise have embraced without actually having lived here and felt like a welcomed part of the community. We owe much to the dedicated enthusiasm of Mayor Kip Holden, Paul Arrigo and the Visit Baton Rouge team, the managers and staff at the River Center, the support of our numerous local sponsors and the Baton Rouge Bowling Association, all without whom it would not have been possible.
We already are looking forward to returning as tourists and expect many bowlers to make the Red Stick a stop in their travels, too. What a special place — and great people — we discovered here. Thank you for that wonderful gift once again.
Duane Hagen, tournament manager
USBC Open Championships