DES MOINES, Iowa -- High school baseball has Principal Park, football the UNI-Dome, wrestling, "The Well," and for bowlers, setting foot inside Plaza Lanes in Des Moines meant one thing. "Everybody wanted to get to the state tournament there every year," said Lincoln Girls Bowling Coach Ray Felton. "I mean, that was your goal as a team."
After an early morning blaze ripped through the iconic Plaza Lanes on Monday, it took more than just memories. For countless coaches and athletes, like Lincoln sophomore Sara Byers, it threatened season-long goals and dreams.
"My heart actually dropped. I bowled in state there last year," she said.
For teams using Plaza Lanes as their home venue and equipment storage--including Ankeny, Hoover, and Johnston--the flames could have swallowed their season along with it. Felton said, "When you lose stuff that is hand-made for you that you are used to throwing, it is devastating."
The bowling community, along with Lincoln High School, wasted no time and started doing what they do best: throwing strikes. A Facebook post asked for equipment donations.
"It's been huge. Bowlerama Lanes, Air Lanes, our two south side bowling alleys, they jumped out front and center."
Byers said the support has been overwhelming. "It just makes me happy that people want to help donate for all of the other students that lost their stuff."
Donations continue to pile in, from bowling shoes to bowling balls that fetch $200 in a retail store. The fire may have taken down Plaza Lanes, but it couldn't lay a finger on sportsmanship.
Byers said, "It just shows that you don't just care about yourself, you care about other people."
Ankeny was scheduled to host Lincoln at Plaza Lanes on Thursday. That matchup has been re-located to Bowlerama. The Iowa High School Athletic Association has not yet named a replacement venue for the state tournament in late February.