A strike or a bonk? Football plus bowling creates 'Fowling' in Michigan
The Fowling Warehouse holds 20 lanes, where players try to knock down all 10 of their opponents' bowling pins by tossing a single football from a distance of up to 48 feet.
Hamtramck, Mich. — A Detroit-area entrepreneur believes he has scored a touchdown with his new business idea. Or thrown a strike.
Actually, it's both.
Chris Hutt owns the Fowling Warehouse, a 34,000-square-foot repurposed industrial site in Hamtramck that's devoted to a football/bowling hybrid sport — fowling — he and some buddies invented while tailgating years ago at the Indianapolis 500.
The facility features 20 lanes, where players or teams try to be the first to knock down all 10 of their opponents' bowling pins by tossing a single football from a distance of up to 48 feet.
The game is not complicated, Hutt said, but it's not easy, either. In the Fowling Warehouse's first six months of operation, only 29 strikes had been thrown over 100,000-plus games.
There's another quick way to end a fowling match: A unique shot called a Bonk, which occurs when a player knocks the middle pin — and only the middle pin — off the board on the first throw. The other nine pins must remain standing.
According to Hutt, there are about 60 Bonks per month. Those who record one are allowed to "honk your Bonk," or sound a Great Lakes freighter horn at the bar. The sonic blast is deafening, Hutt said, but it lets "everyone know ... that you're the coolest person in the room."
Hutt's business, which also has a 175-seat beer garden and a stage for live music, has drawn big crowds on weekend nights. Some take advantage of a deal that allows unlimited play for $10 until closing at 2 a.m. Others reserve lanes for group play, up to 10 players per lane, in two-hour increments.
Peter Grace's third fowling excursion came on a recent Friday night, when he and about 20 others celebrated a friend's birthday.
"It's just a great place to hang out," said Grace, a 27-year-old from Detroit. "It's the best of both worlds. You're bowling and you're playing football at the same time."
Hutt, 46, said he eventually would like to expand his fowling empire.
"This will work in any major city," he said, "and we really want to target the college towns."