The sound of crashing pins is about to fall silent.
Savoy Lanes will close for good, either at the end of March or April, and eventually be replaced by SHARE Nelson.
Pastor Jim Reimer of Kootenay Christian Fellowship, which owns the building Nelson’s bowling alley is in, said the church hasn’t been able to find an operator able to pay the monthly lease of $5,000 for the space.
“We’ve done everything we can to keep the bowling alley in Nelson,” said Reimer, “but that space has to carry itself. The bowling alley just isn’t doing it.”
KCF, which runs Our Daily Bread and SHARE Nelson, isn’t allowed to operate the bowling alley because of its charity status. The church bought the building in 2012 and initially handed the keys over to the Nelson Sports Council, which also backed out of the lease last March.
Afterward, KCF tried selling Savoy Lanes but Reimer said there were no credible offers.
“Maybe if we were shrewd businessmen and not emotionally caring about people we would have closed the bowling alley down two years ago,” said Reimer.
Savoy Lanes hasn’t been renovated since it was built in 1987, which Reimer said hasn’t helped sell bowling in Nelson.
“The problem is that for years nobody has plowed back any profits into the bowling alley,” said Reimer. “And so the bowling alley has become dated in its appearance, and it hasn’t had the constant upkeep of equipment and all the stuff that you need to keep a business vibrant.”
CarryAnne Olfert, a subcontractor, took over the bowling alley last summer. She hasn’t had any success in making the venue financially sustainable, and doubts renos would have helped.
“There isn’t really a whole lot you can do to market a bowling alley. It’s a bowling alley,” she said. “You can’t paint the lanes pink and that brings people in. We have the cosmic bowling or disco bowling, to attract younger crowds. We’ve had special parties, private events, DJing events, to attract younger people, but it seems to still not be viable.”
Olfert’s lease ends March 31, but she hopes to keep the alley open through April to allow for league play to finish.
SHARE Nelson, which is currently located at 612 Lakeside Dr., will move into the new space once its own lease ends Aug. 31.
Reimer said KCF would donate Savoy Lanes’ equipment to anyone willing to open a new bowling alley in town.
Olfert hopes someone finds a new home for bowling in Nelson.
“If the City of Nelson had a spot for it to move, it would be a very big asset to keep it,” she said. “Especially for the Special Olympics [athletes] and seniors. They really utilize it. I don’t know what the Special Olympics would go into coming this fall, so it really is a tragedy this way.”