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Lawn bowling booster wants to get sport rolling here again

Rod Titze, president of the Lakeview Lawn Bowling Association, has more than 2,400 lawn bowls and other equipment for the sport and is lobbying the Mitchell City Council for a place to store them. (Chris Huber/Republic Photo)

Rod Titze won't be bowled over quite that easily.

Titze, the driving force behind an effort to revive lawn bowling in Mitchell, was denied when he requested $30,000 from the City Council for a storage shed for the sport's equipment. The council voted unanimously not to carve out some money for the facility.

Titze said the city made a promise to local bowlers nearly 20 years ago and he wants to hold them to it.

"I've got to," he said. "The project will move forward. The grass is ready."

According to Titze, the city removed the lawn bowling green from Hitchcock Park in 1993 in order to build more tennis courts. During a 1992 meeting, he said city officials promised to find a new location for the green.

That didn't happen for years, Titze said, until the current council agreed to build a green at the city-owned Lakeview Golf Course. The city spent $15,000 on the green, the council was told by city staffers, and has invested more than $8,000 on building and maintaining it.

Titze said he raised $70,000 to purchase equipment and has secured 600 sets of lawn bowls. There are four bowls in a set.

He's storing those 2,400 bowls in his garage, along with mats, measuring sticks and other equipment. Titze, president of the Lakeview Lawn Bowling Association, said a 24-foot by 48-foot building is needed to house all the items.

Some have suggested a tent, but he said that wouldn't be secure enough, nor would it withstand inclement weather. A trailer to hold the equipment presents a challenge to senior citizens who might have trouble getting up inside it to get the bowls, Titze said.

He told the council volunteers would donate their time to allow players to check out equipment. The goal is to get lawn bowling rolling in Mitchell once more, according to Titze.

The plan is to make lawn bowling free this fall and in 2011 and allow people to use the club's bowls and other equipment, he said. Fees would be instituted in 2012, with adults paying $5 a round and kids charged $2, Titze said. An annual membership would cost $50.

When the sport was played at Hitchcock, a city-owned shed was used to store the bowls and other equipment, he said.

Titze said he thought a building at the golf course would be available for the lawn bowling equipment but was later told all the buildings there were full.

He feels the city has reneged on its promise. "I'm not blaming anybody for that," Titze said.

But he does want a shed built so he can get the equipment out of his garage and let people play the sport. Titze said he thought the Golf and Cemetery Department would request the funding for the shed, not the local lawn bowling club.

Titze said he believes there are a lot of people eager to play the game. Even those who have never played lawn bowling want to give it a try, he said.

"Every place I go, I find people willing to give it a try," Titze said. "It's not just me."

He plans to speak with Mayor Lou Sebert and said he will appear before the council again to try to obtain funding.

Titze said he raised about $70,000, which he spent on the equipment. He said it's almost completely paid for, thanks to the more than 800 donors who support the project.

Titze dismisses the idea that he should have saved some of the money for the shed, as was suggested by some members of the council.

Titze said he has spoken with two lawyers who told him he and his group shouldn't have to pay for a building and then donate it to the city. However, he said a partnership is possible if additional funds can be raised.

The city has a long history with the sport, he said. Titze, 63, said he has found reports of lawn bowling being played here since at least 1934 and perhaps earlier.

He was born in Mitchell and remembers watching his father play the game when he was a young boy. He moved away from Mitchell after college but returned in 1985 and joined the local lawn bowling league.

After the green was removed in 1993, the sport ceased here, but Titze led the effort to revitalize it. He has compiled a list of people, groups and schools that have expressed interest in playing.

Titze said lawn bowling has grabbed people's attention in Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Yankton. Other South Dakota cities may form leagues, often

When he was visiting a local hotel, a couple from Great Britain saw a mention of the local lawn bowling league and expressed interest in playing.

The city has said the green will be ready for play this month

But before anyone can roll out the first bowl, something has to be done to allow Titze to move the equipment from his garage to the golf course. He said he's open to suggestion.

"I want to hear some guidance and see what develops," Titze said.

The council told him they are in favor of the sport and want to see it grow. But they also asked Titze to show them there is enough interest in it to support spending any more money on it.

"I hope it goes over," Council Vice President Marty Barington said during the Aug. 17 budget workshop. "I need to see actual members and actual numbers."

based out of senior centers.

He envisions local and state lawn bowling tourneys, including the South Dakota State Senior Games, which Titze said would include lawn bowling when they next hold the event here.

Titze said a 45-person committee has been formed to promote the sport in Mitchell and he has 40 people willing to serve as trainers for people who want to learn more about it.

"They'll all be players," he said.

There is also interest across the globe. Lawn bowling is particularly popular in Australia and he said a professional lawn bowler in that country has expressed interest in visiting here. An Aussie lawn bowling club donated 16 used mats to Mitchell.