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HUNTINGTON — Strike Zone Bowling Center will reopen Thursday, but it won’t be business as usual at the popular facility.

Strike Zone President Mike Prater said things will be different in the 24-lane center located in Eastern Heights Shopping Center. Quite different thanks to the COVID 19 pandemic. All leagues have been notified for their first days back, which figure to be Sunday and Monday for two adult leagues and one senior circuit.

West Virginia has gone from a shelter-in-place order on March 24 to phased reopening now under the guidance of Governor Jim Justice.

Prater sent a letter to Governor Justice dated May 8 informing the Governor the center wants to be part of the “West Virginia Strong, The Comeback.” The request pertains to private leagues. Prater requested leagues be allowed to resume the interrupted season starting June 1. League play for 2019-2020 ceased on March 17 with the Proctorville Dairy Queen League. Prater bowled that shift, then made the announcement that bowling was done for now.

“That wasn’t easy,” Prater said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time.”

June 26 is the latest leagues could restart so play could be complete in time for the 2020-21 season to start if all goes according to plan. Leagues have several weeks of play left to complete their season.

Prater has held meetings with each league to see if members want to finish or call it quits. Response from all the leagues has been to complete the season. The USBC has mandated that anyone not finishing will receive a pro-rated share of the league prize fund. A simple majority was all that was required to end the season.

“I was surprised,” Prater said about league bowlers wanting to return despite all the risks present from COVID 19. “The overwhelming response we have received from our league bowling family has been the highlight of this unprecedented situation.”

Only league members will be allowed in the center and they will have their own equipment. No spectators will be allowed and the center will not be open to the general public.

Leagues will be split in half and use no more than 25 percent occupancy. Bowlers will be spaced out over all the lanes to allow for social distancing (six-foot minimum). They will be asked to wear masks while in the center.

For seniors, half the league will bowl in the morning on their designated day and the other half in the afternoon. For adult leagues, half will bowl on their regular night, the other half on either Friday night or Saturday day/night. No open bowling allows for that to happen. The Twilight League on Sunday will go half by afternoon, half by night.

Prater and his staff will continue to have daily health screenings and temperature checks at the start of each shift and employees will wear masks. There will be increased cleaning and sanitation. Decisions reamin to be made whether food and beverages will be served.

Prater said bowlers can make their wishes to restart known to the governor. The address on the internet is: https://governor.wv.gov/Pages/SubmitaCommenttotheGovernor.aspx.

While closed, Strike Zone Bowling Center has gotten a new roof and air conditioning unit (with UV lighting to the ducts on the way). Work has been done on the lanes as well.

Prater said in his letter to Governor Justice that he received a Payroll Protection Program Loan and one of the requirements was he had eight weeks to those funds for payroll. The origination date was April 13. Expiration date is June 8. If leagues resume, Prater wouldn’t have to layoff the entire staff for a second time.

Prater has dates available for the Huntington Bowling Association annual meeting, the HBA City Tournament, a Ball Demo Day, Henry Harrell Match Games and HBA Senior Tournament.

“We have a lot of flexibility if we start June 1,” Prater said.

Having the public shut out will obviously have a negative effect on business. Open bowling, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, brought in good revenue. Also gone are school parties, business parties and birthday parties.

Prater has plans down on paper, but executing them is still up in the air.

“This has been a tough year, a lost year,” Prater said. “2020-2021 will improve and begin our comeback. Business will hopefully be back to normal in 2022.”

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