Ypsi-Arbor bowling alley to close

Ken Hillis, above, is an employee at Ypsi-Arbor Lanes on Washtenaw Avenue. “It’s sad,” he said. “This place, with investment and care, could become a great center in Ypsi as it has been.” Ypsi-Abor Lanes will close in May.

Due to recent financial hardships, Ypsi-Arbor Lanes bowling alley, located on Washtenaw Avenue, will close its doors for good May 1 after being open for 40 years.

People in the Ypsilanti area have been bowling at Ypsi-Arbor Lanes since 1971. It is the only bowling alley in Ypsilanti. Ray Bonkowski, who has been a manager at the bowling alley for the past five years, said the recent economic troubles and new non-smoking laws have a lot to do with the closing of Ypsi-Arbor.

“Ever since the new law has gone through, our business has been cut in half,” Bonkowski said. “Let’s face it, people like to bowl and people like to smoke. People like to bowl while they smoke. If they can’t do that, they don’t come in.”

The building the business is located in is not owned by the company and has a steep mortgage of $1.9 million.

“I’m definitely sad that we have to close,” Bonkowski said. “I don’t want to go anywhere else, but what can we do?”

Bonkowski is not the only employee who is not ready to say goodbye to the lanes.

Beverly Priipo, a bartender at the bowling alley, has been with Ypsi-Arbor Lanes for the past 27 years and feels as though she is not only losing her job, but part of her family.

“You miss your co-workers and the bowlers, and it takes a long time to adjust to a new situation,” Priipo said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do now. I love working at the bowling alley.”

Though the loss of jobs is devastating, Great Lakes Bowling Centers is doing what it can to accommodate Ypsi-Arbor employees.

“Corporate is setting up interviews for our employees at other bowling alleys so that hopefully nobody is out of a job,” Bonkowski said when asked about future plans for employees.

Many Eastern Michigan University students spend Monday nights at the bowling alley on College Night, or participate in the intramural bowling league that is offered through the REC-IM.

Many people in the Ypsilanti area are also involved in the bowling league at the lanes. Both the intramural league and the Ypsi-Arbor league are being relocated for the next bowling season, but will continue to utilize the lanes until closing in May.

Even though the lanes are closing, intramural bowling will continue.

With the closing of Ypsi-Arbor Lanes approaching, the staff is still looking to make sure all of their customers will enjoy bowling while they can. College Night deals will continue until the closing of the lanes, and as the closing date gets closer, there will be more deals on bowling, food and drinks. There will also be a sale of bowling supplies before the bowling alley closes.

Bonkowski, as well as the rest of the employees want to close the bowling alley on a good note.
“We want people to enjoy themselves as much as possible before we have to close,” he said. “The closer we get to closing, the better the deals are going to get.”

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