So many sports and pastimes are limited by the seasons; especially in areas where there are only summer and winter. Plans for outside activities are often subject to being called off, at a moment’s notice, when storm clouds roll in. Then what? A family outing, fun time turns to lame time. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a plan with practically no chance of a weather cancellation?
Lee and Ray Baird, co-owners of Academy Lanes Bowling Center, offer just such an opportunity. Bowling, billiards, and arcade games, are all under one air-conditioned and heated roof.
The Baird brothers operate the bowling center their father, Rex, built in 1974. The elder Baird first entered the business by opening Ballinger Bowl, in 1964. Three years later, he moved to Brownwood, and opened Academy Lanes at its first location, where City Hall now sits. He occupied the building that was vacated by Holley Chevrolet, when they moved.
There are many opportunities for bowlers of all skill levels, to become involved in competition play at Academy Lanes, or just for an evening of family friendly fun, for which Friday and Saturday nights are reserved. There is no equipment to buy, as a family needs only to bring socks, and a willingness to laugh and smile. The Baird’s and their eight employees will provide the rest. Shoes, bowling balls, instructions and fun are included in the costs.
For those with a competitive nature, league play begins twice each year, in May and August, with openings on teams often available year-round. There are separate categories for men and women, as well as mixed teams and league play is at a cost of only $11 per week, per bowler. Anyone may form a team, with bowlers of varied skill levels, as competition utilizes a handicap system. League play takes place Sun – Thurs.
The center hosts three major tournaments each year. This year’s United States Bowling Congress City Tournament will be held on Oct. 26 -27 and the USBC Mixed Tournament will be in April. “This year will be our 50th Annual Poor Boys Doubles Invitational and we’ll have 64 teams from all over the state,” Lee Baird said, “There will be some pretty high caliber bowlers, making it a really prestigious tournament, not so much for the prizes, as the bragging rights.”
In addition to holding their own Youth Tournament, Academy Lanes is home to about 25 youth bowlers, aged 12 and over, from which a team of five qualifies to attend the All-Star District Tourney, with hopes of advancing to the state level. New bowlers are always welcomed to join.
Special Olympics bowling, coordinated by Lane and Sheila Dryden, and the Adult Retardation Center, is held on Friday evenings, at 6 p.m. The staff of Academy Lanes also instructs Brownwood’s sixth grade students, for one six-week term, in conjunction with their physical education program.
Bowling lessons are available by reservation and are free with paid lane usage. Hours of operation are Mon – Sat, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sun, 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Birthday party reservations are available for Saturdays and Sundays. Academy Lanes is located at 1101 Austin Ave.