PORTLAND — Professional Bowlers Association Commissioner Tom Clark likes the way things roll at Bayside Bowl.
“I can’t wait to be here in April, this place will be rocking,” he said Feb. 15, when it was announced the PBA Tour would return to Bayside for the third straight year.
From April 9-16, pro bowlers will occupy the lanes at the expanding Alder Street bowling center for a week of team matches and a doubles tournament.
The doubles championship match set for April 16 will be aired live on ESPN, the first time the network will broadcast live from Bayside Bowl. The team matches will be aired on ESPN on Sundays throughout April.
“Maine is the only thing on ESPN on Sunday from 1-4 p.m,” Clark said.
Bayside Bowl partners Justin Alfond and Charlie Mitchell said the national exposure has far exceeded what they dreamed of when the business opened six years ago.
“Nowhere in those big dreams did we expect we would team up with the PBA and ESPN,” said Alfond, a former state Senate president.
The Roth/Holman Doubles Championship is new to Bayside, and will feature 32 teams, including one from Maine, Alfond said.
The PBA League Elias Cup, which features eight teams of five, is fast becoming a tradition and aspiration for PBA bowlers, Clark said.
“It gave us a lot of traction, and the PBA league a new life,” he said.
Seven teams will represent cities from around the U.S.; the eighth is the Portland Lumberjacks, owned by Mitchell. Each team has local sponsorship for the Bayside tournament, and Freeport-based L.L. Bean is now the primary sponsor of the Elias Cup.
Bayside’s expansion adds eight lanes to the existing 12, and Mitchell said he expects it will double fan capacity to as many as 500. Organizers anticipate more than 300 visitors will come to town for the week, including bowlers, ESPN staff and fans.
Weekday events, including some round-robin play by league teams, have been sold as individual tickets, while the weekend events are a package. Alfond said there will also be a fashion and music show on Saturday, April 15, that will include PBA bowlers in L.L. Bean apparel.
Alfond said he expects the new rooftop deck, which can hold 150 people, will also be open for a tailgate party.
With bleachers extending across unused lanes, a mezzanine level in the expanded area, as well as fans packed in close to competing teams, Clark said the atmosphere will resemble a college basketball game.
“It is fun, it is exciting, and this place brings it all to life,” he said.
PBA Commissioner Tom Clark, left, and Bayside Bowl co-owners Charlie Mitchell and Justin Alfond discuss the return of pro bowling to Portland during a Feb. 15 press conference.