Mat-Su Valley's only bowling center closes

Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Valley Lanes, the only place to bowl in the Matanuska-Susitna area, has gone out of business.

In the coming weeks, the state may begin auctioning off the lanes, shoes and bar equipment belonging to the Wasilla business.

The bowling alley, opened in 1985, was shut down March 17.

Wayne Connelly, who co-owns the center with his wife, Carolyn, said the closure was not for lack of business, but he would not elaborate. Connelly filed for bankruptcy last year.

''It's kind of hard to talk about,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News.

The state is involved because the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority holds the mortgage on the property and is foreclosing for lack of payment, said Jim McMillan, a deputy director with the state agency. The Connellys are almost two years behind on their payments and owe the state more than $1.5 million, according to state records.

Connelly, a former drill site operator on the North Slope, built the bowling alley in 1985 because he said he ''saw a need for a recreation center'' in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The center opened with 24 lanes and later added eight. It had the latest state-of-the-art automatic scoring. It also included a 6,000-square-foot meeting room and a lounge with a bar and dance floor.

The center hosted a variety of bowling tournaments, wedding receptions, birthday parties and memorial services.

For bowlers it was a great place to spend time with friends, said Al Allen, who manned the alley's front desk for six years.

''From the time it opened, it got an awful lot of use,'' he said.

The center had a loyal following of several hundred league bowlers and many more occasional pin droppers, said Darla Acker, president of the Valley Young American Bowling Association.

It's going to be missed quite a bit, she said.

''It's really sad for the Valley to lose another thing for the youth and for the seniors,'' added Marcie Bentti, an avid bowler who heads the Mat-Su Valley Women's Bowling Association.

The next-closest bowling alley is in Eagle River.

Bentti, who also serves on a state women's bowling association, said Valley Lanes was one of about 20 bowling alleys in the state.

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