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Skee ball league expands to Hyde Park

Chicagoans play in bowling, kickball, baseball, beach volleyball and countless other sport leagues. But skee ball? It's more popular than you think.

"For most of the people, the last time they played was when they were 5 years old at Chuck E. Cheese's," said Mike Fraser, director of league operations for the Skee League, Chicago's first skee ball league.

In two years, the Skee League has grown to 60 three-person teams--180 members in all--who play at Glascott's Saloon in Lincoln Park. The league has had so much success, it is expanding south to Hyde Park.

"We've been wanting to get the league expanded to new locations for a while," Fraser said.

Seven Ten Lanes will act as home for the league's first expansion. Its first official event will take place Monday at 1055 E. 55th St. in Hyde Park.

"This event that we have going on Monday is a litmus test to figure out what kind of following and demographic we can get," Fraser said. "I'm going to customize the way we structure, whether we do tournaments or the league structure like we have at Glascott's."

To encourage more players to attend, the tournament is open to individual players rather than teams. The format will be similar to NCAA brackets, Fraser said, with the winner of the night earning a pair of Chicago Bulls tickets.

"It's a lot of fun playing in the team format, but I would actually be interested in Hyde Park as well," said Jon Byars, 32, a current Skee League member from Lincoln Park.

Fraser hopes to tap into the University of Chicago community at the Hyde Park restaurant. Despite Glascott's proximity to DePaul's Lincoln Park campus, few college students are members of the league.

"Our Glascott's league is so diverse--we've got advertising executives, lawyers, people that are fresh out of college that are doing other jobs, there's no one group that defines [skee ball]," Fraser said. "The one thing that unites everybody is the game of skee ball."

Seven Ten Lanes is an all-ages restaurant, potentially giving students who are not yet of age the chance to join a tournament or league.

"We could foresee having a league where freshmen and sophomores could be involved as well as juniors and seniors who are of age," Fraser said. "I kind of had the vision of where you could have fraternities playing against fraternities, sororities against sororities, or different organizations against other people."

If the Hyde Park group enjoys the kind of success Lincoln Park's has, the Skee League certainly has nothing to worry about.

"We started out with nothing," Fraser said. "We were the first skee ball league for adults, to my knowledge in Chicago, now we're completely full with three league nights … that's 180 people."

And those 180 players are enjoying each and every "skee-son."

"I've been in the Skee League since day one," said Jess Hanebury, 32 from Ukrainian Village. "I'm obsessive about looking at the stats and everything. I’m not the best player by far, but I’ve improved my game."

"There's also the fun in being on a team of course," Hanebury said. "This is a group of friends where we get to hang out all night and talk, it's once a week where I get to see that entire group."

Though Hyde Park is the league's first expansion, Fraser hopes to take the Skee League to neighborhoods such as Wicker Park and Wrigleyville.

"Every neighborhood is known for its own quirks or stereotypes," Fraser said. "But I think that skee ball is a game for everybody and that every neighborhood deserves to have it."

The Skee League tournament takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday at Seven Ten Lanes. There is a $10 entry fee for all players, which includes game play and a free appetizer. All ages are welcome.

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