Two gridiron greats are set to visit Lawrence Township later this month to renew their rivalry, albeit minus the cleats, shoulder pads and helmets they’re used to wearing.
When former New York Giants linebacker and two-time Super Bowl champion Carl Banks and ex-Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Hollis Thomas face off on Sept. 29, they’re be wearing bowling shoes and more relaxed attire.
The two National Football League retirees will be the stars of a celebrity “bowl off” being held at the Colonial Bowling and Entertainment Center to raise funds for the United Way of Greater Mercer County.
Corporate lane sponsorships and general admission tickets to the family-friendly event are currently on sale.
“It’s going to be a cool thing for a family to do on a Saturday afternoon. Dad’s going to be happy because these stars are from his era and he gets to introduce his son or daughter to these Eagles, Giants greats from the past. It’s going to be a really electrifying, fun event for everybody,” said Wayne Tuttle, marketing director for the venue located in the 2400 block of Brunswick Pike (Business Route 1), whichreopened earlier this year after a major renovation.
“It’s definitely going to be a great sporting event. The facility is beautiful,” said Sloane Shavel, director of leadership for the United Way of Greater Mercer County.
“We’re trying to put a new face on United Way here, so that people really see us being part of the community, doing really great fundraisers like this,” she added. “We’re doing great things in the community. We’re making really large, significant changes in the community, and it’s with donor dollars that this happens. So that’s really important for people to understand – that it’s with their support that we can make a difference.”
The Sept. 29 fundraiser is the result of a chance meeting between Tuttle and Shavel.
“We had been looking for a partner in the community since we reopened our doors in February of this year,” Tuttle related. “We met the United Way folks here in Mercer County, particularly Sloane, and we were very impressed. We started talking three, four months ago about doing a celebrity bowl event with perhaps football players or Philadelphia/New York athletes.”
Tuttle, having worked for Comcast in Philadelphia for 10 years, floated the idea of a celebrity “bowl off” to his old friends at WIP, the Philadelphia radio station that broadcasts Eagles football games, and quickly secured the participation of Hollis, who recently joined the station as part of its on-air Eagles pre-game shows.
Hollis played for the Eagles from 1996 through 2005, and played for the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers before ending his professional football career.
Looking at the Eagles’ schedule, Tuttle explained, event organizers noted that the Eagles host the Giants in Philadelphia for a nationally-televised night game on Sunday, Sept. 30, and thought it would be great if they could enlist a former Giants player to go up against Hollis in the fundraiser.
They reached out to New York radio station WFAN and hooked up with Banks, who provides color commentary during the station’s broadcasts of Giants games.
“Carl jumped at it,” Tuttle said. “He was very interested.”
Banks played for the Giants from 1984 through 1992, and later played for the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns before retiring at the end of the 1995 season. A key member of the Giants defense who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1987, he helped “Big Blue” win Super Bowls XXI and XXV.
General admission tickets to the event from noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 29 cost $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. Attendees will be given an opportunity to meet the players and watch them bowl. A food buffet and unlimited laser tag will also be included.
Shavel said Banks and Thomas will spend about a half-hour milling about the crowd shaking hands and posing for photos. They will then spend about a half-hour signing autographs, she said.
The Budweiser Girls will be on hand and there will also be giveaways.
Many lane sponsorships have already been sold, but others are available, ranging in price from $500 to $1,500. Included in each sponsorship are bowling for up to six players, unlimited laser tag and food services. The $1,500 sponsorship level also includes a private meet-and-greet with the players.
Proceeds raised by the “bowl off” will benefit the United Way of Mercer County’s various community programs, such as mentoring and education for at-risk youth, Shavel said.
“I think it’s going to be a perfect afternoon to renew this Eagles-Giants rivalry and have a celebrity bowl for a great cause, the United Way, and introduce the community to our beautiful remodeled facility,” Tuttle said.
Kevin Mannes, Colonial’s general manager, agreed, saying, “I come the from the Philadelphia area, so Hollis Thomas is a legend to me. And Carl Banks is a legendary player too. I follow a lot of football, so I have a lot of respect for the man. I’m looking forward to seeing them both at this event and helping out a great cause.”
To purchase tickets visit www.uwgmc.org/bowl, call (609) 896-1912 or visit Colonial Bowling and Entertainment at 2420 Brunswick Pike (Business Route 1), Lawrence Township.