Arbutus residents try to save bowling alley AMF cites drop in business, calls closure decision final

March 20, 1997|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Hoping to save one of the last forms of community entertainment in Arbutus, residents have launched a petition drive to stop the closure of a decades-old bowling alley in the center of the southwestern Baltimore County community. But those efforts may be in vain.

The drive to halt the June 1 closing of AMF Arbutus, a 30-lane brick facility on Leeds Avenue that opened in 1957, includes pleas from the nearly 85 children who bowl in a popular Saturday morning league, many of whom walk to the alley.

But Larry Ross, regional manager of AMF Bowling Center Operations, said yesterday the decision to shut the Arbutus lanes is final.

Ross said the alley, owned by Fair Lanes Inc. until January 1995, experienced a 50 percent drop in business over five years and is not cost-effective. He said the alley operates at 20 percent capacity, even though lanes are open seven days from 9 a.m. to midnight.

"The business has declined," Ross said. "The real issue is there wasn't enough of the recreation to support the business. The neighborhood is a very mature neighborhood, and the youth population was declining."

He said AMF may sell the building and update AMF's Westview and Southwest lanes -- about two miles away -- in hopes of offering better bowling in the area. All 10 employees will reassigned, he said.

The decision doesn't please Sam Prete, a 13-year-old bowler.

"I might be pretty bored if it closes," said Sam, who signed the petition and is crossing his fingers that the lanes will remain open. "There wouldn't be anything for the other kids to do, too."

Sam's mother, Kitty Prete, worries about larger issues. Since destruction of the Hollywood Theatre in downtown Arbutus in a fire a year ago, recreational opportunities have been limited in the blue-collar community of 20,000 near the University of

Maryland Baltimore County and the Beltway-Interstate 95 interchange.

"It will mess the neighborhood up," she said. "Everything is closing around here. The kids need somewhere to go. they don't have a movie theater anymore, and the movies and bowling were all that the kids had around here. They don't have anywhere else to go."

Lorna Gover, youth director for the recreational league, said the closing of the Arbutus alley would strand many of the local youths ages 4 to 21 who bowl there.

"We've lost our theater, and if they tear it down, it'll be another eyesore, and these kids won't have anything to do," Gover said. "They don't give a tinker's hoot about children."

She said she still hopes the lanes will be saved through petition efforts and intervention of county officials. Last spring, county government launched a study on how to to revive commercial centers and older neighborhoods in the southwestern quadrant, which includes Arbutus.

"I've been coaching there for seven years," Gover said. "Both of my daughters have been there, and my oldest is 25. They said they'll be selling the bowling alley, maybe tear it down. I told them I'd chain myself to the door."

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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