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Brunswick Foundation Restores Century-Old Bowling Center Jewel

at Georgian Court University

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (Feb. 14, 2008) – The Brunswick Foundation and Georgian Court University have announced the dramatic revival of the nation’s oldest known operational bowling center on the campus of the university in Lakewood, N.J.  Brunswick and the school have partnered to restore the late 19th century bowling alley and bring it back to life by spring of 2008.

The Brunswick Foundation sought the expert opinion of historian and leading bowling industry writer Chuck Pezzano to confirm the historical importance of the bowling alley built by the Brunswick Balke-Collender Company in 1899, which lay dormant for many decades and its existence virtually unknown to the outside world.

Georgian Court University reached out to the Brunswick Foundation for help in restoring the bowling alley, which Brunswick concluded was an irreplaceable piece of bowling history that needed to be preserved.

“It’s like walking through a door back into bowling’s past of more than 100 years ago and finding it part of the “Gilded Age,” Pezzano said.  “This is a rare opportunity to link the past, present and future of bowling.”

Bowling was one of the sports of the social elite during the end of the 19th century and now ranks as a leading participatory sport and the fastest-growing high school sport in the United States.

With 108 years of history behind it, this will be the oldest known operational bowling center of a truly American sport, according to Pezzano.  With the formation of the American Bowling Congress in 1895, playing rules and equipment specifications were standardized, so the lanes at Georgian Court have the same measurements as today’s lanes.

Pezzano said that too often, bowling has been portrayed as a back-of-bar activity for men only in a smoke-filled atmosphere of drinking and gambling.  “The alley at Georgian Court does much to debunk such thinking because it was used in the late 1800s and through the early 1900s by the family and guests of George Jay Gould, son of railroad tycoon and famed financier Jay Gould, which included the industry leaders of the world, plus the leaders of society, the arts and other professions.”

The clip-clop of the hoofs of precisely trained polo ponies and the rallying calls of their goal-seeking riders are distant, but treasured memories of the Casino at Georgian Court University – the hub building of one of the most lavish private sports and entertainment facilities for its time – still echo through the structure. That was back in 1899 when Gould created the building which housed indoor polo, court tennis and similar games, a swimming pool, and the three Brunswick bowling lanes.

“Bowling has a long and rich history at Georgian Court.  It was an important sport for the campus back in the 1940s and was used, though less, up to the ‘60s,” said Rosemary E. Jeffries, president of Georgian Court University.  “We are grateful to the Brunswick Foundation and delighted to bring this piece of history back to life.”

No detail too small

Located in the university’s Casino building, the three-lane bowling alley will be almost exactly as it was when it was originally built in 1899 by the Brunswick Balke-Collender Company, according to President Jeffries.  In addition to putting the lanes back into use and resurfacing them, some of the other restorations include repairing the ball returns and installing new bowling pins, restoring gold-finished pendant lighting fixtures, repairing the ceiling, and renewing power sources, President Jeffries said.

Posts containing chalk to dry the hands and rings with towels were part of the original setting, along with slate scoreboards, which will be refurbished and part of the new environment.  The Georgian Court restoration will also feature pictures of the past, artifact displays, and wooden bowling balls to create a feeling of a miniature bowling museum, and will have an official dedication ceremony in the spring.

“We are proud to support the restoration of the oldest known operational bowling center,” said Adrian Sakowicz, president of the Brunswick Foundation and vice president – community relations and corporate marketing alliances for Brunswick Corporation.  “We are thrilled to be able to preserve the past in an unmatched atmosphere and continue into the future with the help of such a dedicated institution as Georgian Court.”

The Georgian Court University campus is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Landmark possessing architectural, social, and cultural significance.

“That alone puts it in a unique place in the history of bowling,” Pezzano said. “While regular tours of the campus are conducted, the bowling alley brings “oohs” and “aahs.”  Just wait until it’s restored.”

Though the sounds of the polo ponies and other sounds of a past century may never return, the sound of bowling balls crashing against pins and the cheers of college student bowlers and others will fill the air around the Casino, a building that not only survives, but thrives.

“Bowling has never been in such exalted company and surroundings,” Pezzano said. “And with that historic past, there is the current, bubbling energy of a highly respected university whose students and community will be re-introduced to the bowling treasure in their midst.”

About Brunswick Foundation
Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC), founded in 1845, today is the world’s leading maker of pleasure boats, marine engines, fitness equipment and bowling and billiards products.  Established in 1957, the Brunswick Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization which seeks to enhance the interests of Brunswick Corporation employees and the communities in which they live and work, as well as support causes and projects that complement the business interests of the company. This year, the organization celebrates its 51st anniversary.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves over 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at 90 Woodbridge Center Drive in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.


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