For anyone: Local bowling alleys offer fun for families, leagues

Local bowling alleys offer fun for families, leagues

Tony Azzam is the new owner of Freeway Bowl and its 48 lanes, which he says makes it the third largest bowling alley in the state.

Ron Ruminer, 68,  of Clifton displays one of the rings he has won for bowling a 300 perfect games. He has bowled four in his lifetime. He bowls in two leagues at Orchard Mesa Lanes.

Bowling is a sport that has stood the test of time because its appeal to all ages.

Sports such as football and basketball tend to cater to the young, but anyone, any age can bowl.

First popularized in the early 20th century, bowling hit an all-time peak in popularity in the 1950s. Some 60 years later, it would be hard to find a town in America without a bowling alley that’s packed every Friday and Saturday nights.

Grand Junction qualifies as one of those towns. Three bowling alleys — Orchard Mesa Lanes, Freeway Bowl and GJ Scores —provide ample lane opportunities.

“Bowling is something you can still afford,” said Orchard Mesa Lanes General Manager Shawn Campbell. “Everyone can still compete and have fun doing it.”

Working at OM Lanes since 1984, Campbell has witnessed bowling’s popularity in the Grand Valley, from casual bowlers to twice-a-week league bowlers.

Orchard Mesa has leagues for every age and experience level, Campbell said, but the most popular are senior leagues.

“They are the most loyal customers you can find,” he said. “They come back year after year, and very few quit. We have a guy out there that’s 95 and still bowls every week.”

Orchard Mesa Lanes, like other bowling alleys across the nation, have built up a loyal following. Many of the employees have worked for the alley for more than 20 and see the same faces year after year. Bill Walters, head mechanic at OM Lanes since 1981, said it’s easy to connect with the regulars.

“You get to where you know them and their families, then next thing you know, you have their grandkids bowling in leagues,” Walters said. “We have some bowlers that we’ve gotten so attached to over the years that when something happens, it’s just heartbreaking for all of us.”

At Freeway Bowl, new owner Tony Azzam wants to establish that type of family atmosphere. Azzam took over ownership of the 50-year-old bowling alley Oct. 1. Although the bowling alley is one of the largest in Colorado with 48 lanes, Azzam feels the reputation of Freeway Bowl isn’t as good as it could be.

“As a community, we are well aware that Freeway Bowl has been neglected for a dozen years or so,” Azzam said. “But we are on the comeback trail. We are doing some remodeling, cleaning up the place, doing some painting. We have some new signs and are working real hard to clean up the image.”

Azzam said he’s always been interested in the family side of bowling. When compared to other group activities, bowling might be one of the least expensive.

“Bowling is very affordable for the family,” Azzam said. “A family of four can each bowl a game and rent their shoes all for $5 per person, so for $20 you get to spend an hour to an hour and half together, compete on a friendly level, and just have a great time doing it.”

Where Orchard Mesa Lanes and Freeway Bowl have a more traditional feel, the valley’s other bowling alley is more modern. GJ Scores opened in 2005 with 36 lanes, billiards tables, a cigar lounge, Wi-Fi and an arcade.

GJ Scores doesn’t have as many leagues and caters more to open bowling.

But like both OM lanes and Freeway Bowl, GJ Scores owner Patrick Steele said one of the most appealing aspects of bowling is getting to interact with family and friends in a competitive atmosphere.

“Families young to old can do it anytime of the day in any weather,” Steele said. “It truly is a sport for any age.”

Orchard Mesa Lanes has 140 kids in its youth program, which runs from ages 5 to 20. In addition to that, there are seven high school bowling teams in the Grand Valley. Central High School fields three teams. Sarah Robbins is the captain of one of the school’s three club bowling teams. Although Robbins bowled occasionally growing up, it wasn’t until she joined the bowling team that she started to see an increase in her scores.

“When I first started, I averaged around an 80, and now I’m at about a 160,” Robbins said. “This is a great way to meet a lot of different people.”

Robbins said she enjoys bowling for the Warriors, and wouldn’t be surprised if she someday finds herself bowling in a league when she gets older.

“Bowling is not an age-specific thing,” Robbins said.

Ron Ruminer is a 68-year-old Grand Junction resident who proves that bowling has no age limit.

Ruminer has bowled four 300 games in his lifetime, including three since 2000.

The most recent came two months ago on a Monday night at Orchard Mesa Lanes.

“You get to the 10th frame and from there on you just hope and pray,” Ruminer said. “It’s a little nerve-racking.”

The California native got his first 300 game in the 1970s, but didn’t bowl his second until 2000. Like with any sport, he needed some luck.

“The last one I bowled they were all pretty solid strikes, but you have to get breaks,” Ruminer said. “One of the others I bowled I had a ball in the sixth or seventh frame that wasn’t very good but it carried.”

Ruminer began bowling seriously in 1961 and still bowls at least twice each week in leagues at Orchard Mesa Lanes.

“It’s a great game,” Ruminer said. “Everyone has their own style and I’ve always enjoyed it.”


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