Bowling alleys threatened as developers swoop in

The pop hit “Shut Up and Dance” blared at Aloma Bowl in Winter Park while Carol Dacre and Sandy Woodcock sipped beers and threw a few games.

“We used to play in leagues, but now we just come here for fun and friends,” said Dacre, 70, of Casselberry on Thursday afternoon. “You feel like you’re at home here.”

Bowling alleys such as Aloma Bowl, built 40 years ago, are disappearing in Central Florida, even though they are making a profit. Owners say they are increasingly being targeted by local developers who want property in residential urban cores. The sport peaked with league bowling in the 1970s and 1980s.

Dacre and Woodcock call themselves the “Golden Oldies” and have played for 40 years. But they nearly had to find a new venue in March when Aloma Bowl signed a deal to sell the property to Orchard Supply Hardware. Fortunately for bowling fans, the deal fell through after Winter Park City Commissioners nixed a parking plan.

“Some owners are getting offers that would take decades’ worth of profits to match,” said Steve Perry, owner of Orange Bowl Lanes in Kissimmee.

Already this year, two of Central Florida’s 14 local bowling alleys have threatened to close. Owners of Colonial Lanes in Orlando filed plans in July to raze the bowling alley and build a self-storage facility. That plan has a hearing with city of Orlando planning officials later this month.

It comes as the industry is fundamentally changing. Once driven by regular league bowlers who would come weekly for games, business is now split equally with casual bowlers who come once or twice a year, owners and analysts said. They added that bowling has been declining for the last two decades as new options have tugged at consumers, ranging from video games and cable television to more theme parks.

It’s true that people are bowling less often than in recent generations, but a shrinking number of alleys and growing population is still bringing in revenue to…

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