Closing of Brookings alley presents opportunity for growth at Crescent City's Tsunami Lanes

Brookings' loss may be Crescent City's gain.

Azalea Lanes, Curry County's sole bowling alley for the past 35 years, will be closing its doors for good on May 8.

"We want to thank the community for a great 35 years," said owner Gary Kerr. "We've enjoyed ourselves, but there comes a time when all good things much come to an end."

Kerr plans to close the lanes after the current league play ends. He states that it was a tough decision, but due to a dwindling customer base it was time to move away from a bowling alley and pursue another venture.

"It's a good building and can still be used. It just ran its course as a bowling alley," said Kerr. "We've got to stop now before it sucks us dry and we still have the means to convert it to something for the community to use."

Bowling in Crescent City

With the closing of Azalea Lanes, Hank Northrip, Crescent City Bowling Association president, anticipates an uptick in bowlers at Crescent City's Tsunami Lanes.

"Hopefully, it is really going to open things up down here," Northrip said. "The nearest bowling alleys will be in Grants Pass, Coos Bay or Tsunami Lanes."

He said Tsunami Lanes needs some repairs, but "if done properly we should be able to almost double our business."

He estimated an additional 10andndash;15 teams and close to 100 people may come to Crescent City from Brookings.

"We may be able to fill up the house with 16-team leagues or close to it," he said. "People who bowl want to bowl. They won't just stop bowling and start skipping stones. Most people are pretty competitive about it. They will be able to come down here and still bowl in the state tournament in Oregon."

Tsunami Lanes, owned by the Elk Valley Rancheria, has been up for sale for several years, according to Dale Miller, rancheria chairman.

"There are people who are interested in it, but it has been that way for quite a while," Miller said. "The normal schedule is still active. We intend to keep doing that unless somebody takes it over."

Even with the ownership of Tsunami Lanes in limbo, Crescent City's bowling alley has been a popular place recently. Diana Procter, an employee at Tsunami Lanes, said that the bowling alley has been particularly busy for the past two months.

As for bowlers heading the other way, Northrip estimated that 25andndash;30 Del Norte County residents who regularly bowl inBrookings will be affected by Azalea Lanes' closure.

Nationwide decline

The Azalea Lanes closure is another of the many examples nationwide of what is happening to the bowling industry during the current economic recession. Bowling alleys, once thriving with patrons and league players, are closing at an alarming rate.

According to Kerr, the United States Bowling Congress, the governing body of 10-pin league bowling, has seen declining numbers in league membership for at least the past decade.

"The trouble now is we aren't creating enough revenue to keep it running the way we want to keep it running," said Kerr. "Keeping the machines and the alley up and running well is something we've always taken pride in. There's a lot to maintain and it takes a lot of hours to keep things running. It's time to move on now rather than run it into the ground and upset people when the machines stop working," Kerr said laughingly.

A sad goodbye

The closure also affects several longtime league players, many of whom have been bowling at Azalea Lances since it opened in 1979.

"They're disappointed, but I think they generally understand that they've seen the leagues decline," said Kerr.

"For a lot of them, this is their home away from home, and that's what we've always tried to create for them. A lot of these people, when they come in, you truly enjoy them coming through the door. They're here to have fun and we always had a great time seeing them."

Though no future plans are set at this point, Kerr said that he is pursuing other options for the building, including the possibility of converting it into a retail space.

Triplicate sports editor Michael Zogg contributed to this report.