The fans, many in costume, chanted his name in support.

And when Jason “Flash” Sterner rolled a strike to clinch his victory Sunday afternoon, he raised his arms and turned to the crowd, basking in the same explosion of cheers that had filled Bayside Bowl all week.

The Professional Bowlers Association returned to Portland to host three televised events during a weeklong stay that ended Sunday. The fans, who were the first to watch any PBA competition in person since the pandemic hit, have made Bayside a favorite destination for the pro bowlers since 2015.

There were more than 150 spectators on hand Sunday, when Sterner defeated King Parker Bohn III to claim the title of “King of the Lanes.” By now, the pros know what to expect at Bayside: a wall of unyielding noise from start to close.

“I knew all about how the fans are, and I expected it, and I loved it,” said Missy Parkin, who made her Bayside debut in Tuesday night’s “King of the Lanes: Empress Edition.” “This is like the most energy you could possibly have in a building.”

Parkin dethroned previous Empress Daria Pajak by defeating her 209-193 in the night’s final head-to-head match. Parkin played off the crowd, which numbered about 100 but sounded louder thanks to the venue’s acoustics and the relentless energy of the fans.

The crowd, largely made up of members of Bayside’s coed Bowl Portland, or BoPo, league, produced a barrage of chants and cheers, from “We want strikes” to “Portland, Maine.” Fans waved signs reading “Yas Queen” and “Ladies Night, celebrating Bayside’s first competition specifically for female pro bowlers.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to see the women here, and I think everybody else feels the same way,” said Kathleen Nugent, a BoPo regular since 2013. “They’re just an amazing group of women and awesome people to watch bowl.”

Throughout the week, the crowd showered almost equal support on all the bowlers. After Parkin bowled a strike to take the crown from Pajak, fans chanted, “We love you” to the fallen champion.

“I think this is going to be the highlight of the whole event for me,” said Pajak, who took home $25,000 in winnings. “I thought it was so heartwarming. I hope I can be back. I do feel like it’s my home.”

Bayside feels like a home to many of its regulars, said BoPo member Jason Berthiaume.

“Bowling is probably no one’s passion here,” Berthiaume said. “It’s the community that we’re in. Everyone that sees the community wants to be a part of it.”

That includes many of the professional bowlers who have been competing in Portland since Bayside first hosted the PBA League Elias Cup six years ago.

Chris Barnes, who won the King of the Lanes crown from Kris “Shark” Prather on Saturday afternoon, has developed friendships with Berthiaume and his partner Erika Puschock. The couple picked him up from the airport when he arrived in Portland and joined him for dinner after he bowled on Saturday, he said.

Bayside cheered hard for Prather, who has won back-to-back Elias Cup championships with the Portland Lumberjacks. Backed by the theme from Jaws, fans chanted “Shark” and waved a cardboard cutout of Prather’s head.

But they showed an equal appreciation for Barnes, who pumped his fists and high-fived onlookers after starting his match against Prather with three straight strikes. When he sealed his 245-225 win, Barnes ripped off his bowling shirt in front of roaring fans to reveal a Captain America T-shirt, a reference to his own nickname.

“For me, the fans are 100 percent the best part,” said Barnes, who lost the throne to fellow PBA Hall of Famer Bohn in the following King match. “Your heart rate goes up, your anxiety, your nervous energy and excitement – all that goes off the charts. This is the most fun place anywhere to bowl.”

After five days of bowling, including Friday’s Strike Derby, which will air on Fox Sports 1 in July, Stefanie Johnson and Sterner reigned as the Empress and King of the Lanes. But already the fallen contenders were excited for their next trip to Portland.

“I love the people here already,” said 19-year-old PBA newcomer Anthony Neuer, who didn’t win the crown but received some of the week’s biggest cheers. “First time here and I already want to come back – haven’t even left yet.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: