SG - Sports

by Howie Stalwick & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area is a sports and recreation paradise, but it's come to our attention that a few of you aren't taking advantage of it. So-o-o-o... get off the couch!

Sports are only as far away as your front yard or the park on the corner -- American Legion baseball games, for example, are a great way to spend a summer evening, and you may be able to walk to the game.

Even if you do have to drive, many of our sporting pastimes won't break your bank account -- in fact, many are free. The only thing stopping you is staring at you in the mirror.

Golf & r & Spokane and North Idaho have garnered national attention for the quality and reasonable prices of their public golf courses, and for good reason. Spokane-area courses like Qualchan, Hangman Valley, Indian Canyon, Downriver, MeadowWood... where do you stop? They all offer a fun, challenging golf experience without leaving your wallet on empty.

One drawback to Spokane's wealth of fine courses is that many Spokane golfers rarely stray across the state line to test themselves on gorgeous Idaho courses like Circling Raven, Avondale, Coeur d'Alene Public, StoneRidge (complete with a 19th hole) and the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course.

The Resort Course is drop-dead gorgeous and lovingly maintained at its stunning lakeside location. You can easily spend more than $200 a round at peak season when everything is added up, but the caddies, the boat ride from the hotel, the complimentary floating range balls, etc. make for a very special day of golf.

Spokane Indians Baseball & r & If you haven't been to the old ballpark lately, we've got good news for you: It hasn't changed a bit, except that it might be getting better with age.

After nearly half a century, Avista Stadium is still a beauty, one of the most attractive and fan-friendly of the older ballparks in the minor leagues. There's not a bad seat in the house; a family of four can easily get in and out for less than $50; and the Indians are one of the few professional sports franchises that still offers free parking.

It's not always easy identifying with Spokane players and their opponents, since virtually all players spend just one season (three months) in the Northwest League. Do yourself a favor and pluck a buck down to buy a program, then keep track of the names and faces as the summer rolls along.

You never know when the next Ken Griffey Jr. (Bellingham Mariners) will come to town. Or the next Mike Schmidt (Eugene Emeralds). Or the next Juan Marichal (Tacoma Giants). Or any of the hundreds of fan favorites who have worn Spokane uniforms, including Tommy Davis, Willie Davis, Jim Barbieri, Frank Howard, Levi McCormack, Joey Cora, Dave Staton, Tommy Hutton, Tom LeVasseur, Bart Shirley, Eddie Murphy, Maury Wills and so on and so forth.

For tickets, phone 535-2922. Home games are scheduled June 19-Sept. 3, and dates for the popular postgame fireworks shows include the home opener and finale.

Bowling & r & C'mon -- stop thinking of bowling as a winter sport. On a broiling-hot summer day, an air-conditioned bowling alley -- with a frosty-cold beverage of your choice at the ready -- is a great place to spend an hour or three.

Actually, you could make a day of it at three Spokane bowling centers, and you don't even have to bowl. Lilac Lanes on the north side, Big Daddy's on the South Hill and Players & amp; Spectators in the Valley house casinos as well as plenty of bowling lanes.

If you've got kids -- or you just want to act like a kid -- it's hard to beat Triple Play. Located on Highway 95 a few minutes north of Coeur d'Alene, Triple Play is home to bowling, miniature golf, water slides, a wave pool, bumper boats, go-karts and more. There's a nice hotel right next door, too.

Ironman USA Triathlon & r & How many times, while driving from Spokane to Seattle, have you found yourself growing road weary by the time you reach the little Columbia River town of Vantage?

Hey, a lot of us need a break after 140 or so miles of sitting on our tush. It's tiring, right? You get hungry, right? You get thirsty, right?

Mere mortals, bow your heads in honor of the hearty lot that, on June 25, will swim, bike and then run 140.6 miles in the annual Ironman USA Triathlon in Coeur d'Alene and surrounding areas.

By the way, when was the last time you swam 2.4 miles? Or biked 112 miles? Or ran 26.2 miles?

Yeah, me too. Just imagine doing all three of those feats.

On the same day.

One after another after another.

It's all capped off by the equivalent of a full marathon run, which is 26 miles of joints-jarring hell that only a minute percentage of us have ever tried, will ever try or would ever consider trying -- never mind finishing.

Watching these off-the-charts athletes up close and personal leaves most observers in awe. Thousands of spectators and volunteers line the course each year to offer their support in various ways, from vocal encouragement to handing out food and drink to providing medical aid to making their homes available to serving as drivers for various purposes.

Some 3,000 volunteers make the Ironman possible. There's a ton of work to be done, and lending a hand is the least you can do when compared to the rather heroic accomplishments of each and every one of the 2,000 athletes. The vast majority of them endure the triathlon (and months and months and months of grueling, multi-hour daily training) for exactly zero dollars -- although the top pro woman will haul off $50,000 this year, after the top male finisher copped the cash last year.

Volunteers are still needed for crowd control, aid stations and the bike and running course. Phone (208) 415-0106 to help.

DON'T MISS & r & Count your blessings to have so many miles of paved bike paths that meander along the shores of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d'Alene. But for something special, try the ROUTE OF THE HIAWATHA TRAIL -- 46 miles of splendid scenery mixed in with pitch-black railroad tunnels (which require helmets and lights) that transport you from Montana into Idaho over the rugged Bitterroot Mountains. You have to pay June 16-Oct. 1 ($8 is the daily adult fee; $25 season passes are available), and it's $9 to use the shuttle bus.

Spokane Indians baseball is the most popular summer sports spectator attraction in the area, but don't forget the college baseball players who play for and against the SPOKANE RIVERHAWKS (whose new home is Avista Stadium, where they'll play June 24-Aug. 1).

And don't forget that the champions of the NFC will be coming back to Cheney starting July 29 and tuning up all the way until Aug. 20. After an incredible Super Bowl run, the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS look to be ready to defend their title, with Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu back for next season. Don't miss the extravaganza party on Aug. 5, with chances for autographs and lots of fun for fans.