Disney's Wide World of Sports is expanding its strike zone with what could be the biggest bowling stadium in the country.
Planned for 100 lanes, stadium-style seating and a restaurant, the facility would be complete in about 18 months. When not used for tournaments, the stadium would be open to the public, Disney officials said Monday.
"It's big. It will be big for the area," said Ray Turgeon of Winter Springs, a bowler who had heard rumors about the facility and the tournaments it will host. "For a lot of new bowlers who have not bowled in a national tournament, it would be great."
Disney officials said an unnamed company will build and operate the 160,000-square-foot stadium, which would be used for events or open to guests except during United States Bowling Congress tournaments. The organization will bring 13 events to Central Florida starting in 2011 and running through 2029. Each tournament is played over a four- to six-month period.
Disney officials said it was too soon to talk about the facility's name or its cost or the third party under negotiation to build it. A spokeswoman said those details might be available in a couple of months.
The bowling mecca would be the latest addition to a growing constellation of facilities at the 220-acre Wide World of Sports that includes a basketball arena and baseball stadium -- spring-training home of the Atlanta Braves. Other sports played there include football, soccer, softball, track and field, lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts, and endurance events.
The Disney facility would be complete in early 2010 and would host the 2011 United States Bowling Congress Open Championship -- an event guaranteed to put thousands of visitors in Osceola hotel rooms, according to a deal approved Monday.
The tournaments are widely regarded as the world's largest participatory sporting event, said Jack Mordini, the bowling congress' vice president of tournaments and events. Mordini said members want to travel to vacation destinations like Central Florida for tournaments.
John Berglund, executive director of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, said the deal would be great for bowling and Disney.
"Bowling is a tremendous family sport, and Disney is a tremendous family venue," he said.
The deal is expected to generate $750 million for the area from 2011 through 2029, when the bowling congress will host seven open and six women's championships, the county said.
Osceola County will pay the bowling congress, with the hopes of getting bowlers to fill rooms at struggling hotels. The county will use tourist-development taxes to pay $1 million to the USBC on the first day of active competition, with a total of about $13 million over the life of the agreement. The payments will be reduced if the number of hotel rooms booked is lower than set out in the agreement.
Other cities in the running for the USBC tournaments were Wichita, Kan.; Tulsa, Okla.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Reno, Nev.