You can eat, drink and shoot pool at Tenpins & More these days. But to actually bowl in the city’s bowling center? Nope, says Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

So, longtime Rio Rancho kegler Dennis Helmick penned the following to Lujan Grisham:

“I am writing to ensure you are aware that bowling is on the brink of extinction in New Mexico.

“I am not talking about one center, it’s much bigger than that. Over the last 15 years, business has been tough for proprietors as the popularity of the sport has waned and we have lost a lot already. Leisure Bowl, Fiesta Lanes, Santa Fe Bowl, Sandia Bowl, Bosque Bowl are all gone forever and that’s just central N.M. The rural areas have it even rougher.

“What makes this shutdown even tougher is that we have seen a revival over the last three years. Bowling has been growing again and these N.M. small businesses owners were able to reinvest in their businesses and their communities, and enjoy the hundreds of friends and families that visit their centers every week. It’s no exaggeration that the COVID shutdown now has them on the brink of extinction. They have had to try and survive with zero income for 6 months and they can’t make it any longer.

“September sets the tone for the entire year, as winter leagues kick off. Without this regular business, this industry is doomed. This is not a short-term problem. When we lose bowling centers, they don’t come back and if we lose them, bowling will become extinct in N.M. Please don’t let that happen; we must be given the chance to breathe some life back into this industry and our communities.

“We have met your gating criteria; it’s time to reduce the restrictions. These are not corporate entities that can invest in N.M., these are N.M. small businesses that have invested in us. Let’s not lose them forever. I know that your office has received dozens of phones calls and letters. It would mean a lot to this community if you would acknowledge our concerns here.”

Steve Mackie, proprietor of Tenpins & More in Rio Rancho, has valid questions for the governor. The annual New Mexico Open was scratched form its usual August date; it’s held at Tenpins & More.

“Bowling has always been an ‘essential business,”’echoed Mackie, executive director of the New Mexico Bowling Centers Association, and proprietor of Tenpins & More in Rio Rancho. “The game would not have been around in the U.S. for over 125 years and now enjoyed in more than 120 countries had it not been ‘essential.’

“It has been a staple part of life for hundreds of thousands of dedicated league and tournament bowlers who have invested heavily in the sport and the camaraderie of the activity, not to forget the millions of others who play the game with family, friends and work associates.”

Plus, Mackie opined, “It’s also essential in New Mexico for employment of over 700 people as well as more than two-dozen venue owners, who have not yet been given the chance to even start to follow CDC and state guidelines for implementing safe practices to ensure the safety of bowlers, spectators and staff at 29 commercial houses across the state.”

As of Aug. 31, only Michigan and New Mexico have not allowed bowling centers to open. One state allowed bowling to start up again as early as April 23, Mackie reported, and 47 others have been open for bowling almost ever since.

Added by Mackie, executive director of the New Mexico Bowling Centers Association, via Facebook: “New Mexico, along with Michigan, are the only two states to have never allowed bowling to recommence action since March 17 Now 167 days and still not any idea of a firm re-opening date in N.M.”