Press Citizen Video
* A good video clip about the Iowa City-Coralville Bocce club.
Bocce gains popularity
By Rachel Gallegos
Ron Grassi, president of the Iowa City Bocce Club, said he didn't know about the sport until just a few years ago when he saw it during a trip to California.
Now, however, it's becoming a popular Iowa City activity a couple nights a week.
The Iowa City Bocce Club, started in April 2006, has doubled its participation in team games from 16 two-person teams last fall to 32 teams -- 16 teams playing Wednesdays and 16 playing Thursdays -- this spring season at City Park.
"It's a fun game," Grassi said. "If you can roll a ball, you can play bocce."
Grassi comes out with his wife, son and granddaughter, who all play the game.
Bocce can be played in two- or four-person teams. The match starts when one player rolls the pallino, a small white ball that acts as the target for the following ball rolls. The team that rolls the pellino also rolls its ball first. Each team has its own color of balls, red or green.
Ann Wells of Iowa City played on a Wednesday night earlier this month with friend Elizabeth Maher. Wells said she started playing last year when Maher and Maher's sister needed another player for their four-person team.
"It's easy to play, for one thing. Everyone has a good time," Wells said. "And you don't have to practice all week. There's no skill involved, but there's a lot of luck involved."
Grassi said the first two Iowa City area bocce courts were completed in 2005. The following year, the city added two more.
Before this year's seasons, the city also added permanent lights.
"I think (the courts) are getting very good use said Terry Trueblood, director of Iowa City Parks and Recreation, adding that he expects future requests for more courts, possibly at other parks throughout the city.
Although some people call it "bocce ball," the correct name is bocce, Grassi said.
"It's like tennis and golf. You don't say you're going to go play tennis ball or you're going to go play golf ball," he said.
The Iowa City Bocce Club follows North American Open Rules, but the game isn't too complicated. The team with the ball or balls closest to the pellino at the end of the game wins. The only time a ball is out is if it touches the backboard at the other end of the court without hitting another ball first.
"The ground is unforgiving sometimes," John Barthel of Iowa City said.
"But everybody's playing on the same court," Ben Anzelc of Iowa City said. "You can't complain."
Anzelc said he grew up playing bocce because his uncle had a personal court. The only problem was that the kids were only allowed to play when the adults were done, he said.
"It's more of a tradition thing for me, nostalgia," Anzelc said.
Now he has his own at-home court, but still doesn't get out to play as much as he would like.
"Anybody can play," he said. "It's hard to be good at this game, but anybody can play."
In a four-person league, two people are posted at each end all of the time. With two-person team play, both teams switch ends together after each round.
"You can't blame the spin of the earth on half of them," Anzelc said.
"It gets a little bit more exciting when you get to walk," he said. "You get a lot of exercise, 60 feet at a time."
Posted on 6/2/07