Business is booming at the Vinton Bowling Center

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VINTON–The Vinton Bowling Center (VBC) re-opened in July 2015 and is doing a thriving business based on open and league bowling. They are open seven days a week with varying hours. Bowlers come from across the valley and the region. There are tournaments a couple of times each month that draw bowlers “from all over.”

The bowling alley closed during the difficult recession years. New owner Liz Jackson said that her husband and oldest son were avid Sunday night league bowlers and heartbroken when the bowling center closed. Her son convinced his parents to make the investment to re-open the facility.

Youth bowler Dustin Clark participates in the Youth Leagues at the Vinton Bowling Center on Saturday mornings.
Youth bowler Dustin Clark participates in the Youth Leagues at the Vinton Bowling Center on Saturday mornings.

Some equipment had been removed when the center closed so renovations were necessary. Manager Kaye Nolen, who had worked at the previous center for several years before it closed, said that improvements were made to the HVAC system and roof, along with replacement of equipment and some general “spiffing up.” They keep up appearances with daily oiling of the lanes and continual maintenance of the machinery.

The VBC is open on Mondays from 9 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and evenings, from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Wednesdays, on Friday nights, and all day on Saturday. There is open bowling from noon to 4:30 on Sundays with only league bowling after 4:30.

In fact there is league bowling in several of their lanes almost every day (many seniors bowl in several different leagues), with Youth leagues taking over the center on Saturday mornings.

The Vinton Bowling Center is open seven days a week for open and league bowling for all ages.
The Vinton Bowling Center is open seven days a week for open and league bowling for all ages.

Nolen says that any interested groups can form their own leagues from businesses to clubs to churches. She also says you don’t have to be a great bowler to join a league. Most leagues calculate “handicaps” to accommodate unequal skill levels. League bowlers pay a league fee which includes games and shoes.

Some of their leagues include the Dogwood Ladies on Monday mornings, the Tuesday night Jackpot League where bowlers pay $12 to bowl with the winner taking home the Jackpot, the Pioneer mixed group on Wednesday night, and the Mixed Up Dogwoods on Friday nights.

Vinton Bowling Center manager Kaye Nolen (on right) is shown with VBC employees Buster Lafroscia and Karen Taylor on a busy Saturday morning.
Vinton Bowling Center manager Kaye Nolen (on right) is shown with VBC employees Buster Lafroscia and Karen Taylor on a busy Saturday morning.

Nolen says that one secret to their success is their reasonable rates at a time when rates are generally increasing in the industry.  Special weekend bowling rates are $10 per person for three hours of bowling from 9 p.m. until midnight including shoes. Their regular everyday rates for open bowling are $2 per game, plus $2.25 for shoe rental—cheaper than the price of movie tickets nowadays.

It’s a busy place with a snack bar serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including concessions, salads, burgers, and sandwiches; a game room with arcade games and a pool table; and free WiFi.

Plus bowlers don’t have to deal with what used to be the most difficult part of bowling—figuring the score. It’s all done automatically these days. A perfect bowling score is 300 for one game, 900 for a three game series. Five perfect games have been bowled at the VBC since they re-opened in July.

The VBC has special rates for First Responders, military personnel, and veterans who can bowl for $1.25 per game with free shoes at any time.

Youth league bowlers get free bowling on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for two hours and on Saturday mornings from 9 to 9:50 a.m. prior to league competition. The youth leagues have a head coach—Sharon Kelly—who helps those ages 3 to 19 to develop their bowling skills. She and other coaches offer lane teaching and one-on-one instruction. Youth also learn lane courtesy, how to take turns, and how to sit and wait your turn.

Head coach Sharon Kelly works with youth leagues offering  one-on-one and lane coaching.
Head coach Sharon Kelly works with youth leagues offering one-on-one and lane coaching.

Youth League bowlers participate in the monthly Ann St. Hilaire tournaments and can accumulate scholarship money through the competitions in “Smart” accounts. Youth are not permitted to win cash in tournaments, but can earn the scholarship funds.

They also have opportunities to bowl in the Virginia State United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Youth Championship Tournament and the Virginia State USBC High School Tournament. The VBC youth, parents, and coaches do several fund raisers to help each youth to have the opportunity to bowl in these tournaments.

The youth bowlers line up across the bowling lanes by size and age with lane bumpers for the younger and less experienced ones.

The VBC can also accommodate bowlers with disabilities. Daycares and school groups are always welcome for open bowling.

Nolen says that many league bowlers bring their own equipment and shoes. Children sometimes have their own bowling balls, but generally rent shoes because their feet are still growing. (There are bowling shoes with Velcro fasteners for children.) While bowling balls for adults weigh between 10 and 16 pounds, those for youth start at six to eight pounds.

The VBC hosts special events, like this year’s family New Year’s Eve party, with special effects available such as black lights with the overhead lights out and multi-colored pins.

They host bowling parties with group package rates for birthdays, sports groups, large gatherings, special occasions, and corporate events with prices varying per bowler, depending upon whether you bring your own snacks. They can cater from their snack bar. There is a banquet room to rent. Nolen says weekends are packed with parties.

She says that two special events are “in the works”—a cancer fundraising bowl-athon and a Pro-Am PBA regional competition.

There are only a few other bowling alleys in the area—Hilltop and Lee Hi in Roanoke, or you must travel to Christiansburg or Lynchburg to bowl. Vintonites were glad to get their bowling center back.

The VBC detailed schedule and party reservation information can be found online at www.vintonbowlingcenter.com. They also have a Facebook page. More information is also available by calling the center at 466-1644 or Nolen at 798-8047.

The Vinton Bowling Center is located on Vinyard Road, behind the Lancerlot.