Where to keep active with brew in hand

Niche sports in bars offer something more during winter months

As the temperatures get cooler and that white stuff gets thicker people inevitably start spending more time indoors. And then naturally as cabin fever sets in they may find themselves spending more time in bars. But going for pints with friends doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on your ass all night — many local bars are offering customers a chance to get active while they socialize.

Not only does getting active help keep you physically healthy but it may also combat the seasonal blues. The U.K.’s Mental Health Foundation ( mentalhealth.org.uk ) suggests finding indoor evening activities in the winter time to boost your mood.

Chris Sveistrup and Funeh Aliu stand across from each other at each end of the ping-pong table at Commonwealth Bar and Stage ( commonwealthbar.ca ). It’s Wimbledon Wednesday meaning free ping-pong for anyone who’s up for the challenge. The two are battling it out over drinks and music.

“When I first came to Calgary I couldn’t find anywhere to play” says Aliu. He says it took him about two years before he found out about the event on Twitter.

Sviestrup and Aliu met at Commonwealth about a year ago when it started hosting these Wednesday night events. They’ve been meeting up weekly to play ever since. Aliu an engineer feels so strongly about the importance of participating in these niche sports in Calgary that he’s considering building an app that will tell people which venues organize such events.

Marketing manager Colin Canning says their team decided to integrate the sport after visiting the bar Spin a ping-pong nightclub in Toronto and New York City.

“It’s nice to have something that’s a little different and fun and interactive” says Canning. “It just gives people another option rather than just sitting at home and watching sports highlights.”

Just down the road National ( ntnl.ca ) recently opened a second location on 10th Avenue S.W. with the traditional beer hall upstairs and National Bowl in the basement. The downstairs bar is equipped with eight 10-pin bowling lanes and seats about 350 people.

National offers a $20 lunch and bowling combo Monday to Friday and corporate event packages. But if you’re going out on the weekend with friends try to get there early as manager Arthur Boguslawski says there’s usually a lineup outside by 8:30 p.m.

And if the lanes are full the bar also offers free ping-pong and foosball tables upstairs. Boguslawski says there are not enough bars that offer options like these downtown.

For those who really need to burn off some energy Schanks Sports Grill ( schanks.com ) has an entire menu of activities available daily — and even welcomes minors until 9 p.m. Bowling billiards and mini golf are just some of the games available between its two Crowfoot and Macleod Trail locations.

Allison Spichko manager at Schanks in Crowfoot says the bar also offers the option for larger groups to participate in the Schanks Olympics where teams compete in each of the activities in one night. They also host pool and virtual golf leagues.

And if you’re just looking to shoot some pool over some beers there are dozens of billiards bars throughout the city. The Hideout (6307 Centre St. S.W.) offers free pool every day of the week with a beverage purchase. Stix Sports Bar (420 5255 Richmond Rd. S.W.) offers drink specials and half-priced pool and appetizers on Sundays. Garage Sports Bar ( the-garage.ca ) attracts a corporate clientele and has a pool league on Tuesdays.