SPRING HILL — The Florida State Bowling Championships are coming to Hernando County for 10 consecutive weekends beginning April 25.
As many as 900 teams of five members each from all over the state will bowl every Saturday and Sunday at Mariner Lanes on Mariner Boulevard and Spring Hill Lanes on Commercial Way.
Ron Ditt, manager of the Hernando County Bowling Association, has plenty of bowlers. But he has another need: volunteers.
The volunteers will help put on what promises to be one of the biggest events ever to boost tourism in Hernando County.
Ditt estimates the economic impact at some $4 million.
County tourism director Sue Rupe said the bowlers will have "a huge impact."
To help make it all a satisfying experience for the bowlers and visitors, local volunteers are needed "badly," Ditt said. "The host association has to provide all the manpower."
On his list, Ditt notes the need for four sign-in clerks each day who will verify a bowler's application and averages, likely from more than one league. Three volunteers at each site are necessary to oversee bracket games, "a little game bowlers play among themselves," Ditt explained.
Storm Bowling Balls, manufacturing sponsor of the tourney, mandates the raffling of a bowling bowl for each squad. "We need two people at each site to handle that," Ditt said.
There also will be a 50-50 raffle, an opportunity for bowlers to recoup some of their travel outlays. Two people at each bowling center are necessary to run that effort each day.
Over the 10 Saturdays and Sundays, running through early July, if volunteers sign up only for one shift — morning and afternoon sessions at each bowling alley — a total of 360 people would be needed, Ditt said. But some of the volunteers likely will take more than one shift.
"We knew going into this we were going to have a (staffing) problem," he said. "This is the first time we've done this."
To entice public participation, the Hernando association has put together a package of incentives for those who agree to give of their time.
"For each time that they work, they will get a basket meal, nonalcoholic beverages and five free games of bowling," Ditt said.
Team competition will be at Mariner Lanes while the doubles and singles contests will be at Spring Hill Lanes.
The Hernando County Tourism Bureau has assisted by obtaining discounts for the visitors at local motels, lining up coupons for area restaurants and printing a map of supporting businesses, Rupe said.
The local bowling association beat out Tampa to host the 2009 tournament. The group worked on its presentation over a year's time.
Taking part in the pitch to the state organization were Ditt, Rupe, Mariner Lanes owner Rafael Hernandez, Spring Hill Lanes co-owner George Martin and Holiday Inn Express manager Jenny Burdett.
"We're going to make some money from this if we can get the volunteers," Ditt said of the bowling association. "All the money we make will go to a special account to cover the expected increase in national (bowling association) membership. Every senior will get $2 more off the regular membership fee of $16 annually.
"That's why we'd like the bowlers to come out and help because they'll get money back."
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.