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New Bowling Alley Could Help Us Reconnect And Enjoy More Recreation

Walt Rubel

Commentary: We were at Monaco Lanes the night my friend Frank put his head through a plate-glass door.

He had passed out cold after drinking too much Ronrico 151, and we were trying to drag him out to the car. Rod held him up under his left underarm, and I held him up under his right. But it was winter in Denver and the sidewalk was icy. Rod slipped on his first step onto the ice, and Frank shattered the door with his head, without regaining consciousness. Don’t worry, he was too hard-headed to hurt himself.

As I think back on my youth, some of the more memorable and enjoyable moments were spent at the bowling alley. I wasn’t an avid bowler, but that’s where all the new pinball machines and video games were. A few years later, pool and foosball tables would be the lure.

When I started my newspaper career in rural Colorado, bowling leagues in the winter and softball leagues in the summer were a huge part of the social life of the community.

In the late 1970s, more than 9 million bowlers participated in sanctioned leagues, according to the Website BowlingSeriously.com. By 2019, that number had dropped to 2 million.

The game hasn’t changed, we have.

Have you seen the TV commercial with two guys in adjoining apartments playing video games against each other and not knowing it, then yelling at each other for making too much noise? That’s what killed the bowling alleys.

In his book “Bowling Alone,” Robert Putnum argues that the advent of television first, and then the Internet have allowed us to fulfill our entertainment needs without ever leaving home, leading to us becoming more socially disconnected.,  

My friend Kelly wakes up every morning and plays poker against people from around the world. He has accumulated millions of chips, each as valuable as the snowflakes that fall outside his Wyoming home. But, the weekly poker games at his kitchen table are long past.

In Las Cruces, bowling hasn’t just been on the decline in recent years. It’s been unavailable since 2018, when 10 Pin Alley closed its doors. Russell Allen once announced plans to add bowling lanes to his movie theater, but money for that was used just to stay afloat during the pandemic.

Now, Kevin McGrath has announced that he will be bringing bowling back to Las Cruces. McGrath, owner of the former It’s Burger Time restaurants, said he plans to purchase and restore the former bowling alley into an entertainment center with 24 lanes, along with virtual reality games, bumper cars and an arcade. And, there will be shorter lanes for kids just learning how to bowl.

McGrath said he hopes to finish the project by next spring. When completed, it will revitalize what is one of our most important commercial corridors along Lohman Avenue. 

But more than that, it will allow experienced bowlers to compete without having to drive to another town. It will give families a new option for activities they can do together. And, it will give all of us an opportunity to click off the TV, shut down the laptop, get out of the house and join a team.

I don’t know how much demand there is for bowling anymore. Recreational sports grow from the youth level, and most kids in Las Cruces simply haven’t been introduced to bowling yet. It’s going to take a real effort, starting from scratch, to revive the adult leagues and build the youth leagues and clinics needed to grow the sport.

I wish them well.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.