Like lawn bowling? Rod Titze is looking for you
If you own a business or belong to a service club in Mitchell, Rod Titze will find you.
There's a good chance he'll get some of your money, too.
He's already solicited donations from 150 local businesses or clubs, and he's walked away with a donation from 95 of them. In sales parlance, that's a 63 percent closing rate. He has several hundred more people to contact, and he's already raised $20,000 in donations and pledges to re-establish lawn bowling -- yes, lawn bowling -- in Mitchell. In addition to the money he has raised himself, he earlier this month snagged a $15,000 appropriation from the City Council.
The sport of lawn bowling, which is akin to bocce ball, hasn't been played in Mitchell for 15 years. Thanks to Titze, ground will be broken on a new lawn-bowling green this summer in a corner of the cityowned Lakeview Golf Course. He expects the green to be ready for play in 2010.
"It's been fantastic," he said this week. "I can't believe how receptive the public has been to this. It's been great."
Titze has come a long way since August, when a request for $13,000 first showed up on an agenda for a Mitchell City Council budget hearing. Many of the eight city council members were cool to the idea, but Councilman Scott Houwman was so excited by Titze's presentation that he pledged $1,000 of his own money to the project.
Officially, the council told Titze that evening to go out and raise $7,500 in private contributions. If he could do that, they said, they'd think about committing public funds to the project.
Titze thinks the council may have been trying to put him off. He doesn't think they believed he'd come back with more than they asked for.
"I shocked the heck out of them," he said.
Since then, Titze has made fundraising for the project his full-time job. He retired three years ago from a job as a Medicaid case worker and joined the James Valley Community Center immediately afterward. The idea to revive lawn bowling was hatched during one of the center's "Dream Committee" meetings, and Titze, being an experienced lawn bowler and the game's most enthusiastic local supporter, naturally assumed the leadership role.
Titze's strength as a salesman may be his anti-salesman persona. There is not an ounce of slickness or pretension in him; it's abundantly clear upon meeting Titze that he just likes lawn bowling, and he thinks you should like it, too.
Titze formerly bowled on a green at Hitchcock Park, but that green was removed 15 or more years ago to make way for tennis courts. According to Titze and some other former lawn bowlers, city officials promised to build another green somewhere but never did.
The game can be played by virtually anyone, but it's viewed as especially good for seniors because of its low-impact nature. The ability to bend slightly and roll a bowl weighing a few pounds is the only athletic ability required. For those who can't bend, there's an arm extender.
Titze's fundraising and the City Council's contribution represent something of a gamble, because there's no guarantee that the sport will catch on. The city's $15,000 and some city labor are expected to get the green built, but maintenance expenses are estimated at $3,000 annually. The money raised by Titze -- he's pushing onward from $20,000 toward a goal upwards of $30,000 -- is being used to buy bowls, targets known as "jacks," rakes to gather the bowls, carrying cases to hold the bowls, utility carts to haul the bowls from a golf course shed to the green, printed scorecards, benches and other equipment.
Much of the equipment is already purchased. Titze has been buying used bowls at bargain prices on eBay from countries all over the globe, and he's gotten some of the other equipment through donations. Eventually, he hopes to undertake a second fundraising campaign to build a shed for the lawn bowlers' exclusive use.
The green will be located in what is now rough just north of the No. 10 tee box at Lakeview. It's a location that's within easy walking distance of the clubhouse, where the city hopes to get a boost in food and beverage sales from lawn bowlers.
Titze, who is president of the newly formed Lakeview Lawn Bowling Association board, plans to offer free bowling to everyone when the green is ready in 2010. He hopes to train some people in the rules of the game this summer so that they can help him train others next year.
Titze hopes some of the money he's raising now will cover the green's maintenance costs for the first year. In 2011, an annual membership fee and day fee will be instituted to support the ongoing costs.
People wishing to make a donation can find Titze, assuming he hasn't already found them.
"I'm averaging three or four donations a day," he said.