- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — When the owner of a Frederick duckpin bowling alley announced he would close May 21, a group of enthusiasts were, well, bowled over.

Frederick Business Properties, owner of Village Lanes, said it will close the alley because of increasing costs and declining revenue. Given that Maryland is one of only a few states that even has duckpin lanes, the announcement was a blow to a slowly dying pastime.

“I understand it has to do with money, and I have nothing against the owners or managers,” said Billy Koontz, 19, part of the group trying to save the alley. “And duckpin bowling has been in decline for the past few decades. But they need to give us a chance to bring it back.”

The group has presented a petition to the owners, urging them to find someone to buy or lease the alley and commit to keeping it open. Debbie Flook, who presented the petition to the owners, has suggested several options, including dividing the 16,500-square-foot space so that a section is still used for bowling.

“They said it is not profitable, but I think someone else could possibly keep it open,” she said.

Village Lanes, which opened in 1960, has been a fixture in Frederick. At its peak, it was used for more than 200,000 games a year. That dropped to about 80,000 games last year.

The decline is nationwide.

Duckpin bowling is believed to have originated in Baltimore in the early 1900s and thrived for decades primarily along the Atlantic seaboard. It grew in Western Maryland during the 1940s because there was little else to do in the rural area, said Susan Herron, manager of Walkersville Lanes. Maryland, with 22 bowling alleys, is believed to have more than any other state, according to the winter 2006 edition of Duckpin News.

The advantage of the game, duckpin enthusiasts say, is the palm-sized ball, making it relatively easy for the young and old. A disadvantage of the game, is the size of the ball, which makes it a difficult game to master.

Bowling alleys such as Longmeadow Bowl, in Hagerstown, and Walkersville Lanes and Village Lanes, in Frederick County, have leagues for age groups ranging from 3-year-olds to centenarians.

Still, the sport’s small-yet-loyal following is not enough.

“Four months of the year — May through August — there is no business, but we must pay and keep employees for the better times,” said Rob Markey, vice president of Village Lanes. “Winter months are the best, but even that is less in recent years.”

Mr. Markey also said Village Lanes might have closed years ago had Arcade Lanes not closed and displaced bowlers in 1998.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide