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Pondella Bingo looks to rebound post-COVID

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Mar 24, 2021

Krissy Stewart, owner of Pondella Bingo, at 959 Pondella Road. CHUCK BALLARO

news@breezenewspapers.com

Pondella Bingo has been in existence for so long that nobody knows exactly when it opened, which is believed to be sometime in the 1970s.

But when the pandemic hit, the hall at 959 Pondella Road looked as though it could be headed for an eventual demise. Fortunately, they were able to weather the storm, and, while things haven’t quite been the same as before, it is bringing in some new games, bingo and otherwise to make up for the downswing.

Krissy Stewart, who was a professional bowler (and Rookie of the Year in 1995) started at Pondella Bingo in the mid-1990s, which was an old Winn Dixie before becoming a bingo hall.

She bought the place in early 2019.

“I started as a volunteer, and worked my way up to manager, and vice president,” said Stewart, who runs three halls, South 41 Bingo in South Fort Myers and Midpoint Bingo in Cape Coral. “I was among the top 24 in the country and I still struggled to pay the bills.”

After being open every day for years and drawing in 150 people every night, Pondella Bingo is only open one day and four nights a week with between 50 and 75 people.

COVID has definitely hurt them as much of their clientele has not yet come back, especially those from Canada.

Stewart said some of their customers were taken as a result of the pandemic.

However, there are other things to occupy people’s time, especially for the older people Bingo tends draws. Meanwhile, some pass away. Others became older and move in with family up north.

They are not being replaced by other Bingo players, Stewart said.

“A lot of people think Bingo is a slower game so they would rather go to Immokalee and play blackjack, which is quicker paced,” Stewart said, “People don’t realize bingo is all computerized and we don’t do it with kernels of corn.

There are computerized bingo machines that call 24 numbers with the cards switching each game. There also are arcade-style games throughout the facility and even an area for smokers — which is quite rare these days – as well as a large area for non-smokers, Stewart said.

Pondella Bingo is open Monday and Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for electronic bingo only. Wednesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. with an evening session at 6:20 p.m.

On Friday, they open at 9 a.m., and it features a matinee at 11:20 a.m. and an evening one at 6:20 p.m. While Saturday has an evening session, with lightning bingo after the evening session. They are closed Sunday.

For more information, call 656-6622 or visit their Facebook page.