After the World Cup ends, channel all that enthusiasm you’ve built up for international competition into an even lesser-known sport in America – bocce!
On July 20 and 21, Palazzo di Bocce in Lake Orion will host the International Bocce Invitational, making it only the second time this world tournament of bocce has been hosted in the United States.
Here in the U.S., bocce is thought of mostly as a niche sport you play at the occasional bar or restaurant that has a couple of bocce courts outside or in your quirky friend’s backyard. But in Europe, bocce ball is popular the way golf is popular here – a favorite pastime and a competitive sport with star athletes and intense championships.
Anthony Battaglia, owner of Palazzo di Bocce, was a professional bocce player long ago and built his bocce palace after retiring as the co-owner of a commercial construction company. He built it so he could host bigger competitions in his own “backyard,” and with the goal of bringing the sport more to the United States and making it bigger and more popular.
Much like golf or bowling or curling, it’s a fun sport that almost anyone of any age can play, but it’s not an easy sport to master. But Team Palazzo di Bocce boasts the first- and second-place winners in the U.S., Jose Botto and Jason Wisniewski. Botto even took second place in the world last year, the best an American player has ever placed.
By bringing the International Bocce Invitational to Lake Orion, the folks at Palazzo di Bocce hope to make this a bigger event each year, bringing in more and more spectators and increasing the economic impact of the sport in Oakland County. And there is no better place in the U.S. to host this world competition, either.
“As far as we are aware, this is the biggest bocce facility in the country, and was the first of its kind for sure,” says Jeffrey Loll of Palazzo di Bocce management.
It is by far the biggest indoor facility in the country, he adds, only bested in size by a “bocce drome” indoor stadium in Italy.
Palazzo di Bocce is a 32,000-square-foot entertainment palace with 10 pro-regulation bocce lanes as well as a full-scale upscale-casual Italian restaurant and full bar. Guests can come in and rent lanes per person per hour or daily, or just stop in for a hearty pasta and glass of wine for dinner or enjoy some pizza and rosé on the spacious patio. The space is ideal both for families and groups of friends having a fun night out as well as for larger corporate functions or banquets. And there is no charge to come in – spectators are free.
The International Bocce Invitational is a two-day competition that kicks off Thursday evening with a closed ceremony for Oakland County commissioners, who are sponsoring the event, and media guests with competitors demonstrating some of their skills. Then Friday and Saturday will have two full days of competition, with players competing for a $20,000 purse and a $10,000 grand prize. Bleachers will be set up for spectators, and admission is free for anyone who wants to come in and watch.
In regular bocce, there are open rules – players don’t have to call their shots and “lucky shots” are permitted, making it much easier to play. But the international pro rules dictate that players must call every single shot, taking the element of chance out of the game – it’s either a hit or a miss.
“This is one of the few times people will be able to see bocce competitions on this level in the U.S.,” says Loll. “It will be pretty hard for normal people to witness this skill level of bocce anywhere else.”
Take advantage of this rare opportunity to see this world championship on U.S. soil and cheer on the home team champion players, Botto and Wisniewski, by reserving your spot for free here.
The International Bocce Invitational is sponsored by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.