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Thursday, December 8, 2005

Bowling Alleys Vanishing from St. Louis

Today's Post-Dispatch carries a headline: Bowling alley is razed for shopping center [DEAD LINK]

This time, the bowling alley is the Montclaire in Edwardsville, Illinois. I have never been there, and can't say anything about its architecture or history. I can say that many bowling alleys of all ages are closing or being torn down in the St. Louis area, and only a few new "boutique" style alleys are opening. The new alleys usually don't have more than 8 or 12 lanes and are often more geared toward alcohol sales than bowling.

Proprietors of bowling alleys that have closed recently have blamed the closures on the decline of league bowling, which guaranteed steady revenue for older alleys with high maintenance costs. I wonder if our atomized society will ever support good, affordable bowling alleys again. St. Louis once had enough bowling alleys to rival the most blue-collar of the other Rust Belt cities. Now, there are only a handful left, with only three lanes left in the city (two of which are small, new and not affordable to working-class people).

2 comments:

Joe said...

"often more geared toward alcohol sales than bowling."

Isn't that the case with MOST bowling alleys, though?

The difference with Moolah, Pin-Up, etc is that they sell fancy beers and mixed drinks. Other bowling alleys sell Busch and PBR. ;-)

I've never been inside the Montclaire, but I believe it closed a couple years back. It's on a stretch of IL 159 that has had a huge amount of big-box development in recent years. In fact, I think Joe Edwards bought some of the fixtures from it for the Pin-Up Bowl.

I do miss the Western Bowl on Gustine and Bingham. The kitschy interior decor always appealed to me as a kid in the early 1990s. The Tropicana I just don't like as much.

Oh, and I think there are a total of four bowling alleys still operating in the City limits: the new Pin-Up and Moolah, plus the Catholic parish-run places: Magdalen Lanes off Kingshighway and Epiphany Lanes off Ivanhoe.

Will said...

I recently picked up an interesting book, Bowling Alone, which studies the disappearance of common community activities, such as league bowling, in relation to an overall decline in community-minded and civic activity since its peak, during the WWII generation. Suffice to say, this is not a phenomenon limited to St. Louis.

Case in point, while I was living in Oakland, the Japantown Bowl in San Francisco was shuttered. Far from a niche establishment, this was a home for hundreds of league bowlers, paricularly gay and lesbian leagues, which were pretty popular.

I bowl weekly down at the Saratoga in Maplewood, and it's sad for me to see these other places go.