IMU eyes bowling comeback


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The 16-lane bowling alley that opened in the IMU in 1955 employed students — called “pinsetters” — whose sole job was to pick up roughly 19,900 pounds of pins in during 41⁄2 -hour shifts.

Students paid 35 cents per game to bowl at the alley, and instructors offered free lessons on Saturday mornings. According to an article in SUI Staff Magazine, an old university publication, students and UI employees bowled 720,000 games between league and recreational play in the first two and a half years the alley was open.

But its popularity eventually rolled into the gutter.

Officials cut the bowling alley down to eight lanes and then removed it in 1988.

More than 20 years later, UI officials are considering rebuilding lanes in the basement of the IMU as a part of its reconstruction post-flood. The project is not expected to be completed until at least 2013.

While officials told the state Board of Regents at its last meeting they want to move forward with their bowling-alley plans, it’s unclear how recent budget cut announcements will affect its future.

In light of Gov. Chet Culver’s decision to place 10 percent across-the-board cuts, Regent President David Miles has mandated freezing new construction projects aside from flood-recovery at the UI. It is unknown whether the bowling alley fits in the flood-recovery category.

Officials originally said they wanted to install the bowling alley because of high student interest.
In the beginning, the IMU’s old alley proved to be popular, but that eventually faded, said Jean Kendall, who served as IMU director of event services in 1965. Lack of interest, along the UI needing space for other services, pushed officials to remove the lanes.

But student interest is now high, and a bowling alley will provide students an alternative to the bars, said David Grady, the UI associate vice president for Student Services.

Victoria Sharp, the UI special assistant to the provost on alcohol safety, agreed the bowling alley would give students a new way to spend their free-time.

“I think that students will use [the bowling alley] as an enjoyable activity,” she said. “Students have been asking for it.”

UI sophomores Hillary Southwick and Mary Schlader said they think the possible addition to the IMU is exciting.

“[Bowling] is something you can enjoy in all seasons,” Schlader said.

At least four other Big Ten schools have bowling alleys — Indiana University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, and Purdue University.

Nationally, bowling participation increased by approximately 5 percent from 2007 to 2008, and some 49.5 million Americans over 7 years old went bowling in 2008, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

Iowa State University has maintained a bowling alley for around 70 years in the school’s Memorial Union.

ISU junior Renee Zbynski said the on-campus bowling alley is a popular place for students.

“It’s hard to think of freshman year [without the bowling alley],” she said. “We would have had a lot of boring nights.”

While UI students don’t have an on-campus alley, many travel off-campus to bowl.

Business from UI students is frequent at Colonial Bowling Lanes, 2253 Old Highway 218 S., said Morgan Ripperton, the alley’s assistant day manger.

He said most students use the alley at night, along with university clubs and teams for events.

The bowling venue offers a good alternative to the bars, Ripperton said.

“It’s not a downtown atmosphere,” he said. “It’s pretty laid-back.”

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