Adonna Mason has been going to Oakland Plaza Lanes since she was 12. “I can remember my sister and I playing downstairs, while my parents would bowl upstairs during the Skater Bowls,” she said. “There used to be a skating rink downstairs.”
Mason, 37, used to bowl at least twice a week. On Monday nights, she would bowl for an MU faculty and staff league. One afternoon a week she would bowl with a not-for-profit agency that provides support for people with disabilities.
Steve Spaur, the general manager, used to cut Mason a deal for her afternoon group because of their limited budget.
“It’s like family; it’s like home,” Mason said. “Everyone who works here has been so supportive to the community.”
But Mason will bowl there no longer. On Saturday, after 30 years, Oakland Plaza Lanes, 2116 Vandiver Drive, closed.
Although Spaur said business had never been better, the owners were approached three to four months ago by Prime Development.
“The property is worth more than the business that sits on it,” Spaur said.
AMF Town and Country, 1508 N. Providence Road, is now the only bowling alley left in Columbia.
Spaur has been trying to prevent the displacement of bowlers in Columbia. He has been working with Town and Country Lanes to give a home to the approximately 1,440 league bowlers. Some of those bowlers overlap into two or more of the 12 leagues at Oakland Lanes. Because of overcrowding, Spaur said 250 to 300 will be forced to quit bowling.
“When Jefferson City went to a one-bowling-alley town, 400 bowlers quit,” Spaur said.
Town and Country Lanes will now house eight more leagues. Some will be transfers and some will be new leagues to the alley, but all will be comprised of more than 400 displaced league bowlers from Oakland Lanes. The remaining four Oakland Lanes leagues will not continue.
“Its a difficult situation for the community, because we have to turn away bowlers,” said Tom Farrar, bowling center manager for Town and Country Lanes. Within six months, Farrar expects to submit a proposal for expansion. For now, Town and Country Lanes has added late leagues and extra leagues on weekends.
Piece by piece, Oakland Plaza Lanes is being sold or moving, said Spaur, who has worked at the bowling alley for 14 years. The only thing staying is the miniature golf course. It will remain open until the end of August.
The pin setters were purchased by a bowling alley in Virginia Beach, Va. The first eight were already moved by Saturday night. Moving the last 16 lanes will start today and be finished by Wednesday. The arcade gaming equipment will leave Monday when its owner picks it up. The house balls and shoes have been sold to new a bowling alley opening in Salem.
“The only thing I have left to sell are my church benches, my cosmic light system and my wooden lanes,” Spaur said.
By Wednesday, the 25 employees were down to five. Spaur stays behind for one more month to wrap things up.
“My main concern now is getting my employees jobs, then I will worry about myself,” Spaur said. “The employees and customers are like family.”
Although business had slowed some in the last month after the bowling alley’s liquor license expired June 30, the sound of balls striking pins continued until the doors closed for the final time.
“An era is over,” Spaur said.