Green Bay, WI (WFRV) – Bowling is back and in a big way in Green Bay.

The state bowling championships return for the first time since 2016.

1,800 teams are competing over 16 weeks.

Team events are located at Green Bay’s Riviera Lanes. Singles and doubles compete at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley.

“Bowling in Wisconsin is strong. This is the biggest state tournament in the country,” says Zach Boulanger of the Green Bay chapter of the United States Bowling Congress.

Of course, being in Green Bay the comparisons to the Packers are inevitable. But tourism officials say when you’re talking about 9,000 bowlers over 16 weekends, that’s no small potatoes.

“Every event that we bring into town we do a calculation around economic impact,” explained Nick Meisner of Discover Green Bay. “This one came in around $3 million. The direct impact is the people from out-of-town putting money into the businesses. The indirect impact is that money going into wages and supplies that then go back into the community.”

Ryan Orvis, General Manager, The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, tells Local 5 News that they hired two dozen workers because of the event.

Dennis Schroeder, Head Bartender at Riviera Lanes says tips from the last championship paid for his flight and vacation to Hawaii.

There’s also second-generation bowling alley owner Ed Vahradian from Oak Creek who is sponsoring dozens of bowlers.

He says most make the trip up the interstate for the comradery as much as the bragging rights.

“The squad that I put together has a 23-year-old all the way up to 75-year-old,” Vahradian revealed. “About 100 guys that are going. So, it’s just a nice life mix of bowlers.”

This is an open championship. Even though there is a separate women’s competition, Local 5 News saw several female competitors alongside the men during the second weekend of the tournament.

“It’s good to see the ladies participating,” said Kathy Stevens, Association Manager Milwaukee Area USBC. “This is a tournament with your higher-end bowlers and some of these ladies are out there, they can beat the pants off the guys!”

In fact, spectators are welcome to see for themselves.

Organizers say it is up to everyone about safety protocol and how they feel about the continuing pandemic. They ask that everyone be respected whether they choose to wear a mask or not.

Both the Green Bay and Milwaukee area bowling associations report a robust return to league bowling now that more people are getting out and about.

For the Green Bay USBC, the visitors and local competitors alike will allow them to continue to pay for scholarships for young bowlers who want to pursue their sport and their education.

“This is great for us,” added Boulanger. “We do a lot of fundraisers, raffles, and things that allow us to support local bowlers and leaguers. We have 2,500 members here in Green Bay. We give out a lot of scholarships. So, the fundraising during the tournament helps to support those things.”