Keeping five-pin alive
Nearly half a century of the Richmond Hill Pro Bowl
Martin Berger is the current owner of the Richmond Hill Pro Bowl, but his history with the local hangout dates back to 1970, when his uncle Len Fromm co-founded the bowling centre. Marty, then 16, was contracted to install the lanes. Since taking over in 2006, the Pro Bowl has undergone some dramatic facelifts — the smoking room was taken out in favour of a bigger snack bar — but the spirit of 10-pin bowling lives on.
How has the bowling centre changed since you were a teenager?
The leagues for five-pin bowling have declined a lot. It’s a Canadian sport. When we first opened, it was all five-pin on one side and 10-pin on the other. Now I have 24 10-pin and eight five-pin. It’s more challenging — you only have five pins and smaller bowling balls. Now it’s only popular with families with little kids. Families like the five-pins more because the kids can hold the ball.
How have you updated your hardware since taking over?
We put in all new lanes. We have all touch screen scoring systems, with LED monitors. We were getting a lot of comments from the customers that we were stuck in the caveman times. It’s important that everything’s up to date. If you have all these new leagues coming in but a lot of old technology, they might go back to where they came from.
Who are some of your most notable regulars?
A lot of my seniors have been here for a long time. Ed Sackfield has been bowling here since the beginning. He knew the mayor, and the mayor said, “One day, Ed, whenever we build a new community centre, we’re going to name it after you.” Now it’s his name on the arena. And the King City Mixers just celebrated their 40th anniversary. They were one of the first leagues here (10593 Yonge St.).
This local hangout dates back to 1970