Venue unveiled in Baton Rouge Matt Cannizzaro and Emil Williams February 1, 2012 BATON ROUGE, La. - After almost two months of construction, the transformation of the Baton Rouge River Center is nearly complete, and the one-of-a-kind bowling venue is ready to welcome more than 60,000 bowlers for the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.The start of the 151-day event is just a few days away, and local media, dignitaries and tournament sponsors were given a sneak peek of the venue, which includes 48 tournament lanes, custom scoreboards, four showcase lanes, office and vendor space, locker room, squad room, concessions area and seating for more than 600 bowling fans.Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne's Chief of Staff Cathy Berry, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo helped welcome the USBC Open Championships back to the Pelican State for the first time since 2005. They each spoke about the excitement in the area and the preparations that have been made for the more than 12,000 five-player teams headed to Baton Rouge during the tournament's run from Feb. 11 to July 10. "We are extremely excited about the Open Championships being back in Baton Rouge," Mayor Holden said. "All of our bars, restaurants and hotels can't wait for the tournament to get started. The Christmas spirit is all around. People are waiting to see what Santa will bring, and USBC is Santa."Returning bowlers will get to revisit some of their favorite places from 2005, while newcomers will have the opportunity to experience the city's Southern hospitality as well as its distinctive Cajun and Creole flavors."We have done a lot of refurbishing to the River Center since 2005, and that's one of many changes we have made," Holden said. "The event really gives us a new lease on life because there will be dollars available that we wouldn't otherwise get. This will allow us to keep several programs and services going throughout the city."With tens of thousands of bowlers and their guests headed to Baton Rouge for an average stay of 3.5 days, the city can expect an economic impact between $75-100 million.USBC Managing Director of Tournaments Brian Lewis and USBC Open Championships Tournament Manager Duane Hagen were on-hand to put the event in perspective."The city of Baton Rouge has always been welcoming and eager to show bowlers its great hospitality," Lewis said. "The downtown development and growth is just one of many exciting changes our bowlers can look forward to. The city has partnered with USBC to make the Open Championships successful, and because of that effort, our bowlers and their families will have a great time."The 2012 Open Championships is the 109th edition of the storied event, which was contested for the first time in 1901 and is open to all USBC adult members. Outside of the National Bowling Stadium, where it has been held every third year since 1995 (and 2011), the tournament is held in a convention-center setting, similar to what's been built inside the River Center.Competition at this year's event will run from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily as bowlers compete in team, doubles and singles in two average-based divisions for a prize fund of more than $5 million.There are still spots available for bowlers interested in competing in the 2012 Open Championships. The entry deadline is March 1. Bowlers also can join the tournament's new VIP program or schedule an hour on the showcase lanes with USBC Silver coach Bill Hall.