by ERIC WATSON
Unlike many bowling leagues that attract members by offering big prize money, Goodtime Bowling League in Salt Lake City offers members a chance to bowl each week for a charitable cause.
Dean White, owner of Bonwood Bowl in South Salt Lake, said the Goodtime league has been making donations to various charities since they began bowling at his establishment in 1990.
“They’re a very charitable bunch,” White said. “We get thank you notes all the time from places they donate to.”
Goodtime donates roughly $1,500 spread out over approximately six different charities each year, but as membership numbers continue growing, donations are becoming more plentiful.
Goodtime has grown from 14 to 24 teams since last year alone, according to league president Nate Christensen. “My goal from last year to this year was to build the league,” Christensen said. “We added 10 teams. It was phenomenal.”
The league is up to 96 bowlers, which Christensen said directly connects to the $1,700 in donations so far this year.
Goodtime has donated to the Ronald McDonald House, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Utah AIDS Foundation and the Utah Pride Center this year. Also, a donation was made to the family of a Bonwood Bowl employee who died in a traffic accident in 2007.
Some people assume that, since Goodtime is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bowling league, donations are strictly made toward LGBT organizations, but Christensen said that is not the case.
“Every bowler has a vote for which charities they would like to donate to each year,” Christensen said. “The majority of our charities are not LGBT affiliates.”
The majority of the donations are collected from membership fees and various buy-in tournaments that Goodtime organizes. The types of tournaments vary from week to week, but the charity theme remains the same.
One example of a tournament called “strike it rich” gives bowlers a chance to win some money while still making a contribution. The amount of winnings change each week depending on how many players buy-in, and the winner receives half the pot while the other half goes towards charity.
“If the pot is $100,” Christensen said, “$50 goes to charity. A few weeks ago the pot was $180.”
Christensen explained that Goodtime does not simply “cut a check to each charity and say ‘see ya next year.’” Goodtime contacts each charity individually to explain who they are and what they are doing in the community.
“I explain that we are a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bowling league that is doing something good in our community,” Christensen said. “We are individuals, and we do care.”
Goodtime has been a part of the International Gay Bowling Organization since the IGBO was founded in 1980. Back then, Goodtime bowled at the University of Utah.
IGBO hosts prize tournaments for LGBT leagues all across the nation. Salt Lake Goodtime has hosted two IGBO tournaments, but Christensen said it did not turn out as well as he had hoped.
“[IGBO] wasn’t as successful as it could’ve been,” Christensen said. “I have gone [to an IGBO tourney] in Orange County and it was an amazing turnout.”
In order to be a part of IGBO, Goodtime pays the organization $150 per year, giving Goodtime members the option to attend any IGBO tournaments nationwide. Dallas, Texas will host the next national IGBO tournament this year, according to Christensen.
To ensure Goodtime remains successful each year, Christensen explained that the league tries to create a fun atmosphere for the bowlers while keeping charity at the forefront of the league’s agenda.
Recognizing Goodtime’s charitable donations, White recently wrote a letter to the Goodtime league expressing the importance of what they do for the community each and every bowling season.
“They get very little publicity,” White said, “but they’re not after publicity, and they’re never pretentious about their donations.” He continued to say that not many people realize how much Goodtime is contributing to the community every year.
White said that Goodtime, like many bowling leagues at Bonwood, hold a “turkey shoot” during Thanksgiving, where each team has a chance to win a turkey, “but instead of keeping their turkeys, 10 individuals from [Goodtime] donated to the food bank,” he said.
“I do their in-house banking,” White said, “so I know what they do with their prize money. They keep very little for themselves. They buy trophies once a year, and that’s about it.”
According to league member and former Goodtime secretary Chad Hall, 33, the league was at its largest during the 1995 to 1996 season, with 36 registered teams.
“Scheduling 36 teams for one night was tough,” Hall said. “Twenty-four teams is probably our limit.”
Christensen said the league still has room to grow, but admitted adding too many teams might cause problems. “I would feel comfortable having 28 teams,” Christensen said. “As president, I would like to see the league stay within two-thirds of the lanes at Bonwood.”
Keeping a few extra lanes open gives the public an opportunity to experience what the league is all about, Christiansen said, and having too many teams could make the league feel impersonal.
Goodtime is open to anyone to join. The league currently has members of all ages and sexual orientations.
Although Goodtime bowlers come and go, Christensen said he has bowlers that have been with the league over 10 years. He estimates that 60 percent of the league changes from year to year, but he and former president Scott Mallar have added stability to a once shaky bowling league.
“We’ve gone through some growing pains,” Christensen said. “[Mallar] did a great job of building up consistency within the league. My goal is to keep it consistent and fun.”