She noticed right away that he was an amazing bowler. But Denise Cykiert, 29, of Novi had no idea where that chance bowling match would lead. It was the winter of 2012. The registered dietician joined a bowling league with some girlfriends “just for fun” through the group ComePlayDetroit, which offers a variety of intramural sports leagues in the city and surrounding areas. On June 19, she walked down the aisle with Avi Knopf, 26, also of Novi, that amazing bowler who caught her eye.
“Avi joined the league as a ‘free agent’ and was placed on a random team,” she recalls. “He knew no one but really wanted to join a serious league and meet new people.”
The two chatted at Hartfield Lanes in Berkley every week, but Cykiert says she was “completely oblivious” he was interested in dating. One day, he asked her to meet for coffee, and the rest is history.
“Ever since the first time I laid eyes on her, I could not help but look around for her at the bowling alley,” Avi says. “I will never forget how excited I was when she said she would join me for a first date — I thought she was out of my league.”
The couple plan to bowl as Mr. and Mrs. Avi Knopf this winter.
“We now bowl together,” Denise says. “He made sure to coach me and accessorize me with my own leopard print ball, snazzy shoes and matching bag. I never thought I would meet anyone, let alone my soul mate, on a sports league.”
Gearing Up For Summer
Kickball, softball, volleyball, basketball, even something called “bubble soccer” will soon be in full swing on Belle Isle, in Campus Martius Park, at Joe Dumars Fieldhouse, along the Detroit Riverwalk and other locations across the city. Registration is now open for ComePlayDetroit’s summer leagues, which begin in mid-July.
Established in 2010 with support from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, ComePlayDetroit coordinates and manages more than 100 intramural athletic leagues.
The group’s sponsors include Quicken Loans, Wallside Windows, Northwestern Mutual and NEXTGen Detroit.
“This will be our seventh summer and by far our largest session,” says ComePlayDetroit founder Justin Jacobs. “That’s mainly due to the growing demand for programs thanks to the companies employing more people in the city.”
In 2015, ComePlayDetroit was awarded a seven-year contract from the state of Michigan to maintain, manage and operate the sports fields and facilities on Belle Isle. This summer, coed kickball, softball, flag football and bubble soccer, which is sure to draw attention, will take place there. The sport is similar to traditional soccer, but players wear large, clear, plastic air-filled bubbles that cover their upper bodies. Participants try to score goals while bouncing off of their opponents and off the ground. This is the first year the eye-catching sport is being offered.
ComePlayDetroit is leading a $10 million fundraising campaign with the goal of renovating the entire Belle Isle athletic complex. So far, they have received state and federal grants and commitments from the Detroit Lions and the NFL. They are still actively seeking private donations to upgrade four existing fields and build new facilities.
“Our leagues are a catalyst for a healthy and active community,” Jacobs says. “If we want the best and brightest to consider Detroit for their next job opportunity, people look for more than just a high-paying job; they want a dynamic lifestyle. We help create that lifestyle in Detroit with more than 12 different sports being offered six days a week.”