It’s been a rough couple of decades for bowling, and in Lexington, one more friendly old bowling alley, with smooth lanes, bizarre footwear and the aura of league camaraderie, is staring at its last strike.
Lexington used to have three bowling centers — Southland on Southland Drive, Eastland at New Circle Road and Eastland Parkway, and Joyland off Old Paris Pike. Come June, when Eastland closes, only Southland will remain. Joyland closed in 2017.
Eastland lanes had been open since 1959, its towering sign as much a part of the North Lexington landscape as the nighttime stars that once adorned the entrance to Eastland Shopping Center.
Bowling, which used to have a presence even in the White House and in the Biltmore mansion outside Asheville, N.C., has seen its participant numbers dive. In 2005, a book called “Bowling Alone” used the decline in bowling as a metaphor for the collapse of the American ability to band together and participate in a common cause, social or civic.
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In 2014, a Washington Post article noted that most of the United States’ bowling centers are around the Great Lakes and the upper Midwest, but much of the nation’s population growth has happened in the Sun Belt.
The Herald-Leader once ran bowling results and bowling features, including a 1989 piece on a bowling league secretary’s job that sounded as complicated as launching a bowling ball and hitting the moon.
A 1994 article celebrated Bob Vogt’s first-ever 300 game.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Vogt, a member of the Lexington Area Bowling Association Hall of Fame and the Knights of Columbus bowling league. “I have spent the last 40 years trying to roll a 300 game.”
Vogt helped open the Joyland bowling lanes and once broadcast a cable bowling show from Eastland. Now, at 77, he bowls two or three times a week.
When Eastland closes, Vogt said, he would like to see some recreational building in the area. “I think it should be some kind of recreation thing for people on the north side, something in the evenings the kids could go to.”
The subject of what the north side of town needs has caught fire on Nextdoor.com, the online site where neighbors can network and discuss issues, including safety and commerce, in their neighborhoods and those nearby.
Andrea Wright of the Radcliffe/Marlboro neighborhood has gathered 111 signatures on a petition at Change.org seeking “some zoning changes in the area and some businesses more beneficial to our community and neighborhood, such as restaurants and family-oriented businesses.”
Wright’s petition says the area “is currently flooded with pawn shops, gentleman’s clubs, cars lots and other businesses in poor condition.”
Catherine Perkins, a longtime neighborhood activist in the Joyland neighborhood, which is next to Radcliffe/Marlboro, said on Nextdoor, “It is up to the residents of the Northside to invest in themselves. ... How many of you on the Northside go The Wild Fig Bookstore and Café? How about Maria’s Kitchen? ... Look at Southland Drive. They are trying very hard to rejuvenate, and I believe they are succeeding.”
Emily Bain from Bryan Station said on Nextdoor that she is patronizing north side businesses, including the new D’s Café on Bryan Station Road, a veterinary practice on New Circle Road and the north side library branch on Russell Cave Road. Still, she said, “to stop the kudzu-like overtaking of businesses by used-car lots is beyond my control.”
The gentlemen’s club/car lot/pawn shop area of New Circle Road looping around north Lexington from Russell Cave Road to Winchester Road was criticized in a 2009 LFUCG small-area plan for its lack of inviting gateways and entries into central Lexington, poor pedestrian and bike access, and lack of defined bus shelters. The report said the area offers “commercial uses ... with unattractive rear yards adjacent to the neighborhood” and “somewhat dated land uses.”
Council member Angela Evans, whose 6th district covers part of the affected area, said the concern about the business makeup “goes beyond the constituents who live there. I’ve had several people tell me around the city that they’re concerned about it as well.”
“The used-car lots have grown in abundance, and a lot of people think it’s excessive,” Evans said. “Quite frankly, I would agree with that.”
The area is expected to get more attention in the upcoming 2018 comprehensive plan.
Josie Giurgevich Jones, president of the Joyland neighborhood association, said during a phone interview, “There’s a big concern on what we are becoming. We’re such a nice little pocket here.”
Charles Rashid of Charleston, W.V., a partner in the company that has owned the Eastland Bowling property since 2014 and owner of the J.D. Byrider used-car franchise there, said he’s not planning to tear down the building on the 3 1/2 -acre site facing New Circle Road.
“I was hoping I could find a big-box tenant,” such as a mattress company or furniture store, Rashid said.
With an acre under roof and ample parking, “I think there’s endless possibilities for a new tenant. ... I’d like to see the neighborhood improved rather than brought down.”
Charles Rashid, whose company owns the Eastland Bowling property, said he would like to hear from possible tenants, who can reach him at JDbyrider.com.