A rock band playing in the middle of a crowded bowling alley as players on either side attempt to knock down the pins might seem like an unusual sight but that is exactly what Jessie Phua delivered last night.
And that is also what the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) president believes will be the key to financial independence for her association.
While high performance remains a priority for the SingaporeBowling @Rifle Range, a $3.5 million all-in-one training facility based at the Temasek Club, it will also be driven with commercial intent.
The 38-lane bowling centre at Rifle Range Road - the biggest in the country - has 19 LCD projectors. Its removable seats and ball racks allows the space to be configured to host corporate functions.
Said Phua on the sidelines of yesterday's grand opening: "We can do a weekend carnival with slides indoors or transform it into a D&D destination.
"How much can I sell one bowling game for? But if I value add, if I tell people we're more than just a bowling facility, I can package that into a contract and charge a lot more."
In addition, the lanes feature state-of-the art camera analytics to provide instant feedback for the players. This was installed with the help of a $150,000 grant from the Singapore Sports Institute.
Said Shayna Ng, who won an All Events gold at the World Championships in Abu Dhabi: "The technology looks very exciting and I'm sure it will help us improve our game and bring it to an even higher level."
Having finally set up a dedicated home for the Republic's national keglers, Phua hopes to add two more similar centres in the future.
That will generate enough revenue to allow SingaporeBowling to be fully self-sufficient and not require government funding to run its programmes, added the former Nominated Member of Parliament.
For several years, bowling has been among Singapore's key sports and placed in the highest bracket of financial support, usually in the millions of dollars annually.
The sport has also enjoyed a stellar 12 months. At last June's SEA Games on home soil, it captured four golds, five silvers and one bronze. A month later, Joey Yeo became the women's champion at the Bowling World Open in Japan.
Singapore also clinched the top country award at the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup in Las Vegas in November before achieving its best outing since 2005 at the Women's World Bowling Championships with a haul of a gold, two silver and three bronze medals last month.
"There's no pride in begging," said Phua. "We think we're doing our part for Singapore. Let the money go to the next emerging sport or to the next deserving NSA (national sports association)."
It was a pledge that was praised by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, the guest of honour at last night's event.
He said: "Bowling wants to be financially independent and to generate its own income stream... That may not be done in all sports but where it is possible I think it is most commendable."
This article was first published on Jan 17, 2016.
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