MONTGOMERY – Bowling will become the newest championship sport offered by the Alabama High School Athletic Association, beginning with the upcoming 2015-16 school year. The state championship tournament is scheduled for Jan. 29-30, 2016. The Central Board of Control is expected to approve Pelham’s Oak Mountain Lanes as the host for the first state bowling championship at its July meeting. Two regional tournament sites at Tuscaloosa and Foley are also expected to be approved. “We are extremely excited about adding bowling to our list of winter state championship sports offered to our member schools,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “The sport was offered last season as an emerging sport under jurisdiction for our member schools. The growth of the sport in such a short time has been outstanding.” A total of 43 schools fielded bowling teams last season. Already, that number has grown to 78 based on school sports declarations received for next season, according to Denise Ainsworth, the AHSAA assistant director responsible for the sport of bowling. “We think that number will grow even larger before the season gets underway,” she said. Schools participated in regular-season play only last school year. Ainsworth said the format for the 2015-16 inaugural season will include two regional bowling tournaments at the Gulf Bowl in Foley and Leland Lanes in Tuscaloosa with qualifiers advancing to the state tournament at Oak Mountain Lanes. The South Regional at Foley will be Jan. 20-21, and the North Regional at Tuscaloosa is set for Jan. 21-22. The sport will include a championship for girls and for boys in a combined Class 1A-7A. Schools fielding only a coed team will compete in the boys’ division. The first day allowed for practice is Oct. 5 with the first date for a contest set for Oct. 26. Varsity teams will be limited to 18 dates and five regular season tournaments. Middle and junior high school teams will be allowed a maximum 12 regular-season play dates and two regular-season tournaments. “Bowling is a sport that includes a segment of our student population that may not be competing in other sports,” Ainsworth said. “It also is a sport that is attracting teachers who may not be currently coaching a sport.” A list of schools that have declared bowling for 2015-16 can be found at the following link: http://www.ahsaa.com/Portals/0/Sports/Bowling/2015-16/2015-16%20Bowling%20Schools.pdf Bowling was offered by the AHSAA as a championship sport for girls from 1972-77 along with badminton and archery. However, all three were discontinued after the 1977 season. It is the first championship sport added by the AHSAA since slow-pitch softball began its conversion to fast-pitch softball in 1995. Boys’ and girls’ soccer was added in 1991. Indoor track, which resumed in 2012, was conducted from 1966-2007 for boys and from 1974-2007 for girls before play was suspended for four seasons (2008-11) due to a lack of adequate facilities. With the construction of Birmingham’s state-of-the-art CrossPlex, indoor track participation has shown significant growth in the last three seasons since re-instatement. The AHSAA currently offers 24 championship sports, including cheerleading, with 12 for boys and 12 for girls. Cheerleading is a sports activity endorsed by the AHSAA with the state championships being administered by an outside source. With the addition of bowling, that brings the total to 26. Boys’ basketball was the first championship sport established by the AHSAA (1923). Boys’ outdoor track followed in 1925 and boys’ tennis in 1935. Football, which got its roots as early as 1892 (Alabama School for the Deaf) and 1898 (Barton Academy of Mobile), established its first state playoff in 1966. Prior to that time, while no playoffs were set up, mythical state champions were crowned by news media each year from 1920 to 1965. Girls’ sports began officially in the AHSAA in 1962 with swimming, followed in 1966 by tennis. In the 1971-72 school year, six girls’ sports were added. A history of the AHSAA championship sports, with first year of championship play, is listed below.