The long lines of pins with bowler names and high scores written in black Sharpie mounted on the Wall of Fame at Lewis Lanes, Lowville, belies the dwindling number of dedicated bowlers faced by the last two sets of Lewis County bowling alleys.
Now referred to as family recreation centers, the owners of Harrisville Lanes and Lounge and Lewis Lanes LLC continue to do what they can to spin former bowlers back into the frame and set up some pins for new players.
“I feel bowling has come a long way to become more of a family experience,” said Wendy Mahoney, spokesperson for Lewis Lanes. “We’ve had to work hard to change our image and to change people’s ideas about what we are, but we do have a lot of die-hard bowlers and things are getting better.”
Ms. Mahoney said that in every bowling trade publication she read after Lewis Lanes burnt down in 2009, people were saying that the only way for a bowling alley to survive was to transition to being a family-oriented recreation center with more than just bowling.
“We wanted to survive so we decided after we re-built to make that change,” she said.
Both the Harrisville and Lewis facilities have embraced that concept by featuring game rooms, offering birthday parties and other special events as well as full-service restaurants and even an ice cream shop to keep going in the non-league months over the summer.
Even with the changes, Lori Kobylanski, co-owner of Harrisville Lanes and Lounge, said there has been a significant decline in business over the past 15 to 20 years when there used to be two leagues every night with full rosters.
Now, with league season beginning next week, both facilities still have openings for teams with just one league per night.
At Lewis Lanes, a Sunday co-ed team of two men and two women, a four-person team for the 1 p.m. senior league and the evening women’s league on Wednesday, and a five-person team for the Thursday evening women’s league are all needed.
Youth bowling sign-up will be on the first day of the league at Lewis Lanes, at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 28 and ending in the beginning of April after 28 weeks of bowling.
“It’s a really awesome way for kids to meet new people and have some competition without the pressure that some other sports have,” Ms. Mahoney said.
The Harrisville leagues are short teams on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights in the women’s and two men’s leagues, respectively.
Bowling offers people something to do during winter, Ms. Mahoney said, but it’s about more than winning or losing.
“Some bowlers can be really competitive,” Ms. Mahoney said. “But it’s not about the competition, it’s about the fun and the camaraderie and meeting new people.”
Both locations have become new homes for bowlers orphaned due to the closures of South Jeff Lanes, Adams, and the Gouverneur Bowl, the owners said.
Harrisville picked up one of Gouverneur’s Wednesday night men’s leagues.
“We’re keeping it going,” Ms. Kobylanski said of she and her husband and co-owner Jeff Exford. “We don’t want someone to come in here and close it down, not keep it going. We want our grandkids to be able to bowl.”
For information about open bowling and bowling birthday parties, or to sign up for leagues, call Lewis Lanes at 315-376-3611 or Harrisville Lanes at 315-543-2775.