Arsonist targets Tulsa's Rose Bowl again

Tuesday, October 4th 2005, 10:16 am
By: News On 6

Investigators have officially ruled Monday's fire at Tulsa’s historic Rose Bowl, an arson fire. Now they're trying to find whoever caused more than $200,000 in damage.

As News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains, this is not the first time the Rose Bowl was the target of an arsonist.

When the Rose Bowl went up back in 1962, it cost just $280,000 to build. When it went up in flames Monday evening, an arsonist did nearly that much in damage. For decades, families enjoyed the Rose Bowl's convenient location, alongside Tulsa's busy Route 66. But early this year, the doors closed for good. Witness Bill Humbel: "Took my kids there and bowled every Tuesday and sometimes more, we were sad when it was sold and then when the new owner closed up." Bill Humbel called 911 when he noticed smoke and flames pouring from one of his family's favorite hot spots. "By the time I called 911, the windows were cracking and the plywood was burning and smoke was coming out of the top of the Rose Bowl."

This isn't the first time someone has set fire to the Rose Bowl. One man has already served time for second-degree arson, and fire investigators had been here even before that. Tulsa Fire investigator Bruce Latimer: "To my knowledge I've been out here on two fires that they considered arson, and I know that they've been out here three times within the last two or three years to investigate suspicious fires."

Michael Sparks[pictured] was convicted after admitting he torched the place a year ago. He told authorities the Rose Bowl was interfering with his business, a competing bowling alley.

Investigators have not ruled out arson in a fire a month before the Sparks fire. They determined that $40,000 blaze started in a pin-setting machine.

Bruce Latimer says the Rose Bowl's history of fires will be revisited with this most recent arson. "We know that ignitable liquid was used. We know that a white male was seen entering the building to the North side approximately 30 minutes before the fire was discovered." They're offering a reward to find out who he is.