The Ruder Reality

This summer’s renovation of Viking Bowl and Billiards will marka big victory for on-campus student recreation and a chance forPortland State University recreation enthusiasts to carve out along-overdue niche on campus.

Fewer than two years ago, an Office of Information Technologiesplan threatened to replace the outdated lanes and adjoining areawith a state-of-the-art computer lab to meet growing accessdemands.

We should be glad it didn’t. Two of the largest bowlingcontractors submitted proposals for the remodel last Monday and allinvolved hope to break ground this June or July.

As John Eckman, assistant director of auxiliary facilities,points out, “Bowling is having a huge resurgence. Campuses thatreplaced their bowling alleys are regretting that they did.”

While the Viking Bowl and Billiards isn’t much to write homeabout as is, refurbished, modern lanes with more attractivepackaging could be the catalyst for remaking Smith’sabandoned-hospital-ward-esque basement into the hot-spot forstudents it was back in the days of Portland State College.

In the ’60s and early ’70s, Viking Bowl was jumping. PSC fieldedmen’s and women’s bowling teams in the Oregon College BowlingLeague and sent two bowlers to compete in the nationalchampionships. The league broke up in 1971 and the only remnant ofa happenin’ Viking Bowl is an official Portland State Collegebowling shirt enshrined in the university archives.

Back then, with a less developed campus, there was plenty ofoutdoor space for pick-up games and recreation besides bars andhangouts to blow off steam. Somehow, en route to becoming Oregon’slargest university over the past twenty years, providing on-campusrecreation options and hangout spots got overlooked. New buildingscontinue to pop up faster than the administration can sell thenaming rights, but to date, little has been done to make PSU’scampus a desirable place to hang out for any reason other thanstudying.

Remodeling the bowling alley will not instantly transformon-campus recreation, but it could be the first step in a muchlarger plan to transform the bombshelter-esque basement wastelandinto a much needed campus hangout Eckman suggested might be calledthe “Smith Underground.”

Occupant turnover has left the northwest corner of thebasement vacant and, with or without the possible relocation of thePortland Teacher’s Credit Union and the office dedicated to theconstruction workers remodeling Smith, there is a large area inneed of a new tenant.

Where better to build a hip, sports and recreation orientedrestaurant/lounge than alongside a bowling alley?

Admit it, you’re tired of McMenamins, never really liked theCheerful Tortoise in the first place and aren’t overly excited byAramark.

The Food for Thought Caf� has proven that a qualityestablishment targeting a specific population can succeed in thebasement. So why couldn’t a recreation-themed restaurant and loungethrive in the other corner?

When I brought up this idea, Eckman noted that other studentshad the same idea, describing a remodeled area that “would be theyin to the yang of Food for Thought.”

While an on-campus pub serving alcohol is probably a pipe-dreamdue to liquor regulations and Aramark, an all-ages pub-like areaisn’t beyond the realm of imagination. Some new carpeting, wallsand lighting with a short menu of pub food, drinks and theall-important dartboard and big screen television and you’ve got adestination.

Plans for remodeling the game room adjacent to Viking Bowlalready call for the construction of a stage and installation of aquality sound system that could host weekly concerts in conjunctionwith KPSU.

An improved game room, a state-of-the-art bowling alley, and ahip restaurant and lounge would put the basement on the map as therare place on campus to kick back and forget about studying.

While I admit that in its current state it’s hard to envisionthe basement as anything more than a way to avoid the rain whilegetting from Neuberger to Cramer, anyone who has witnessed thetransformation of the 4th floor of Smith knows that miracles arepossible.

The SMSU Advisory Board will be holding meetings May 24-June 4on Mondays at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. and on Tuesdays at 12 and3 p.m. to determine what to do with the empty space in thebasement. If you think the above is a good idea, or have a betterone, contact John Eckman at [email protected]