Bel Mateo Bowl saved by community GoFundMe efforts

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Rebecca Von Tersch

Bel Mateo Bowl is temporarily closed due to Covid-19, but there are plans to reopen. While the reopening date is unknown, Bel Mateo has made health and safety measures to fit COVID-19 guidelines. “I think that Bel Mateo made a lot of effort to make sure we were protected while bowling from Covid-19.” Hilary Esposto, a member of the bowling league, said.

Bel Mateo Bowl will stay in business at least through the end of the year due to a community effort on a GoFundMe page.

Local bowling league member Tamlyn Murata started the GoFundMe page. It has raised a total of $64,475, much more than the expected $30,000, and that number is still increasing.

After the announcement of a statewide quarantine due to COVID-19, the bowling center was in danger of closing its doors for good. 

“I almost thought that all hope was gone and we were going to have to close. And she [Murata] really grabbed the bull by the horns and did this. It absolutely saved us, we would be closed right now,” said Mike Leong, the president and general manager of Bel Mateo Bowl. “But now it’s giving us the strength to fight through this and probably make it at least through the year, if not further.” 

The Bel Mateo community decided to step up and find a solution to the bowling center’s possible closing. Bowling league members and other community members alike have been donating to the page, much to Murata’s surprise. 

“I thought, okay, we’ll put $100,000 as the goal, which in my head was not attainable, and kind of huge. And I’m like if we could get $30,000 that would be amazing, and then we hit $30,000 pretty quickly. And then it was $50,000, and we have $50,000, my mind is blown, and now we’re at $64,000, and I am pretty sure we did more than what I could have ever expected,” Murata said. 

Murata said that the community is “tightly-knit,” and they are all excited to see each other again and get back into their sport, even with the risks of COVID-19. 

“I’m very excited about the possibility of reopening. My friends and I are constantly texting or calling each other, asking if anyone has heard any news of the bowling alley reopening. It’s equally frustrating because California is the last state to reopen bowling alleys.  Either way, as soon as it reopens, I’ll be ready to show my support,” said Matahi Ribera, who makes frequent appearances in his league at the bowling center. 

I’m very excited about the possibility of reopening. My friends and I are constantly texting or calling each other, asking if anyone has heard any news of the bowling alley reopening.”

— Matahi Ribera

Many bowlers have been eager to return to their routines after the shelter-in-place order instituted in March. Bowling centers across the nation have been reopening, and Bel Mateo Bowl is predicted to reopen soon, with new protective measures.

“I can’t wait to get back on the lanes,” said Josh Nathanson, who has been in leagues at Bel Mateo Bowl for four years. 

The emptiness of the bowling center is felt in the hearts of everyone who has visited, even now, when the distance between them is great. The community efforts to donate truly show how much they care about the bowling center, and how eager they are to return. 

“The efforts that people are continuing to put forth is what is keeping us in existence. We’re extremely proud of everybody who is putting up their effort, whether it just be $5, it’s something that is going from their hearts to help keep us in existence, and we are truly, truly grateful for that,” Leong said.

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