If you do a Google search for the phrase "bowling is a dying sport," you will discover that folks have been predicting the demise of keggling since the dawn of the digital age.
However, that speculation recently turned into reality in South Milwaukee and Waukesha when AMF Bowling Worldwide abruptly closed the AMF South Park Lanes and AMF Waukesha Lanes.
Bowlers had flocked to the two large bowling centers for generations.
American Machine and Foundry (AMF) began in 1900 as a manufacturer of equipment for the tobacco industry. The company invented the pinspotter in the 1940s, revolutionizing and automating the game. After World War II, the company began expanding its bowling business and later turned to manufacturing sports equipment and bicycles. At one time, AMF owned Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. and Hatteras Yachts, but it remains the largest operator of bowling centers in the nation, by far.
Bowling peaked as a sport in the mid-1960s with approximately 12,000 bowling centers built mostly in blue-collar neighborhoods across the United States. By 2011, the number of certified bowling centers had shrunk to 5,160, according to the United States Bowling Congress.
The closings in South Milwaukee and Waukesha came in the aftermath of AMF filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2012. It was the second bankruptcy filing for the Mechanicsville, Va.-based company in 11 years.
Last year, AMF merged with Strike Holdings LLC to form a new company, Bowlmor AMF.
Bowlmor AMF put some of its 300-some bowling centers up for sale but apparently could not find suitable buyers for the South Milwaukee and Waukesha sites.
South Milwaukee Mayor Eric Brooks said the closure of South Park Lanes is a significant blow to his community.
"It’s clear that AMF South Park Lanes has a special place in many hearts in South Milwaukee and the South Shore," Brooks said in his mayoral blog.
Brooks pursued an explanation for the closures and received a statement from Bowlmor AMF: "After a comprehensive analysis, we recently made the decision to close our AMF South Park 586 location. This was a very difficult decision and we are grateful to the community for their patronage and support over the last 60 years…"
The company encouraged bowlers in the Milwaukee area to continue to support its two remaining local bowling centers at 7505 W. Oklahoma Ave. in Milwaukee and AMF Bowlero Lanes at 11737 W. Burleigh St. in Wauwatosa.
The South Shore, which for generations has been a hotbed for bowling, is now relegated to a handful of smaller neighborhood centers. The Red Carpet Lanes closed its large centers near General Mitchell International Airport and South 27th Street years ago.
The closed AMF centers in South Milwaukee and Waukesha are locked and dark. Unless a buyer is found, they will remain dark until they ultimately are demolished. From a commercial user standpoint, it’s difficult to imagine repurposing a bowling alley into anything but another bowling alley.
I have an overwhelming urge to drop in a quote from "The Big Lebowski" right about here. But I can’t find one that doesn’t have an "F" bomb in it. Given the demise of bowling, "The Dude" might be a human time capsule.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Steve Jagler
Published Sept. 17, 2014
Bottom line: Koss is losing money, has halted production at its plant in Mexico, is pulling back on research and development of new products and is suspending payment of dividends to shareholders.
Published Sept. 4, 2014
"The Transfer of Knowledge and Power to the Next Generation" will be the theme of the 2014 BizTimes Get Smarter Talent Development Conference. The breakfast event will take place at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee on Friday, Oct. 17.
Published July 18, 2014
The Milwaukee Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force invited business leaders from Oklahoma City, Denver and Cleveland to discuss a new arena, mass transit and other infrastructure projects in Milwaukee.
Published July 9, 2014
Though it may seem counterintuitive, there are times when the customer is not worth the drama, and the customer must be fired.
Published June 25, 2014
Kay Plantes, an MIT-trained economist, author and expert on business model innovation, recently predicted the next big wave of innovation in health care.
Published June 11, 2014
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to open up recently proposed rules concerning the future of the Internet for public comment. The changes could end net neutrality.
Published May 29, 2014
To many of my colleagues in the baby boom generation, the rising generation of millennials is a mystery.
Published May 15, 2014
Could Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Energy Corp. or Madison-based Aliant Energy Corp. become takeover targets for renowned investor Warren Buffett? Possibly, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg.
Published April 30, 2014
When Harry S. Dennis III walked into the room, more times than not, he was the smartest guy in that room. So it is with great sadness and a profound sense of loss that I inform OnMilwaukee.com readers that Harry passed away on Sunday, April 27, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.
Published April 22, 2014
After a national search, Marquette University decided that the best candidate to be its next president was sitting in an office five miles across town. Sources said it was Marquette that pursued Michael Lovell, rather than the other way around. After all, Lovell will leave behind a strong legacy of achievement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.