Closure of Madison’s Ten Pin Alley
left bowlers empty handed
Last year’s tornado damaged
bowling alley beyond repair
(March 2018) – For many families in and around Madison, Ind., the now-permanent loss of Ten Pin Alley on Clifty Drive has left a deep void.
Ron Gregory, who owns the building that housed the bowling alley and the adjacent Crown Room bar, announced in late December that he would not rebuild the facility, which was damaged by an EF-1 tornado that stormed across the hilltop on May 20. Along with ripping out dozens of trees around the county, the tornado caused extensive damage to the roof of the bowling alley roof and damaged other nearby businesses.
Gregory and his wife, Vivian McIntosh Gregory, had owned the business since June 1, 2000. He said last week that closing the bowling center “was strictly a business decision. The (bowling) industry has went downhill; it wasn’t profitable enough to re-open.”
Derek Newsome was among the avid bowlers who now miss going to Ten Pin Alley.
He said that at times he had to take profits from his other businesses to keep the bowling alley open. The couple owns Miss Vivian’s Tanning and the Home Again furniture store, as well as rental storage units and commercial rentals.
“Now there is just nothing,” she said. “Bowling my first 300 game ranked right up there with getting married and having kids. I was so looking forward to doing it again.”
“I enjoyed tremendously having the bowling center,” Gregory said, adding that the worst part about closing was losing contact “with all the good people I got to meet. There are a lot of good people in the community, and I know they hate to see these businesses close. But they’ve been very supportive.”
Supportive, perhaps, but definitely not happy.
“I don’t have anything good to say about this,” said avid bowler Margie Smith of Madison. Though she claims she wasn’t a very good bowler, “I’m going to miss it. I’ve been bowling since the eighth grade,” when her mother started teaching her the sport.
“My mother bowled until she was 91,” Smith said. “It’s an easy sport, and it’s a fun sport.”
But Smith has given it up. While there are bowling alleys still operating in Vevay and Scottsburg, “I don’t want to drive those roads.”
There also is a bowling alley in Versailles, but the wait list for joining leagues is two years because it is a smaller facility, she said.
Without league play, she will no longer get to participate in state and regional tournaments. To qualify, a bowler has to have played a certain number of games to determine his handicap.
“We love the sport,” said Madison’s Shari Wilson, who was a league bowler for 25 years. “To me, the loss for our community is a place for families to go year-round, to enjoy an evening out and recreational time together. Now I feel like we don’t have anything like that in Madison anymore. It’s a big loss. I’m hoping someone else may come along” and open a new facility.
She agreed that participation in league bowling had declined over the years, but she believes there is still enough interest locally to keep a facility open, especially if it included other activities, such as pool tables, ping pong tables or an arcade. “A family fun center, I think, would go over really well.”
Derek Newsome, 36, of Madison started to bowl at age 8.
“I grew up in that house,” he said of Ten Pin Alley. “Now my son, who is 10, has bowled a season or two. He wants to join a league so he can compete in the Youth State tournament again. But he has nowhere to go.”
Newsome said he and his wife bowled in a Madison league every Friday, usually with his buddy, Ricky Burgess and his family.
Burgess, also 36, who now lives in Bedford, Ky., started bowling at Ten Pin Alley at age 6. “I only stopped bowling when I was in the service,” he said. He bowled his first and second 300-point games – a perfect score – at Madison’s lanes, and qualified several times to bowl in national tournaments.
But the loss, he said, is not his. “It’s my kids.’ The void is on them.”
For his children, joining leagues in Vevay or Scottsburg isn’t an option.
With school sports and other extracurricular activities in full swing, “it’s hard to find a good time to drive that far,” he said. “When it was in Madison, it was easy.”
Newsome agreed. He said his family did join Vevay leagues in the fall. He and his wife would bowl Friday nights, then turn around on Saturdays to get the kids to their morning league games.
With the drive 30 to 40 minutes each way, “it was super late by the time we would get home.”
Since bowling clubs were started at Madison Consolidated High School and Junior High School a little more than 10 years ago, many local students have earned college scholarships for bowling. Connie Leap of Madison said her youngest daughter, Amanda, is a junior at Marion University and earned a $4,500 annual scholarship to bowl for the university team. “It would have been more, but she also got academic and arts scholarships, too.”
Leap said she knows of six Madison-area students this year who at college on bowling scholarships.
“That’s why I’m upset. We were just starting to build the program and getting kids involved,” said Leap, whose husband, Doug, was one of the first to coach the high school club team. Doug Leap also bowls at regional and national tournaments.
Losing the facility “is detrimental,” she added. “It affects more than the leagues. Families and church groups went there. They had kids’ birthday parties there.
“Bowling is a sport anyone can do, from about 3 years old to some who bowl into their 80s and 90s. And you can compete, even if you’re not great, because of handicapping. It’s good exercise and good mental exercise” because it does involve strategy, she said.
Terri Yancey of Madison said that she’s mostly just sad that the leagues are gone. “I bowled since I was 17. I grew up there. We were so close.”
Yancey said she bowled every Tuesday in the women’s league and every Friday with her husband in the mixed leagues. They would also go to practice every weekend.
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