KENAI (AP) -- In November of 1959, Sky Bowl and Cafe opened for business in the heart of Soldotna with six lanes.
Today, the echo of shiny black bowling balls hitting pins at the end of a lane has been replaced by a bingo parlor run by the Soldotna Little League.
Gold Strike Lanes, as the bowling alley came to be called, recently closed for business, signaling the end of an era. ''Bowling is no longer profitable in Soldotna,'' said Sally Hoskins, owner of the building. Hoskins changed the name of the alley when she took over more than 20 years ago.
''I am very sad to see it close. It has been in Soldotna for many years,'' she said. ''But when you are in business, you either make money or lose money and if you are losing it, you got to make a decision.''
Hoskins said the bowling alley had been losing money and going downhill for the past eight years. Of the two major companies that build machinery for bowling alleys, one of them is in bankruptcy, she said. That made running the business even more difficult.
So Hoskins closed the alley in May, remodeled the space and leased it to the Soldotna Little League for a bingo parlor. That left only Alaskalanes Family Bowling Center in Kenai as the only outlet for bowlers in the area.
Many Soldotna bowlers are not happy with the close.
Soldotna resident Daughn Carpenter has been bowling at the Gold Strike Lanes since 1991. She and her league learned of the closure during the middle of last season.
''Our entire league was upset,'' she said.
Carpenter said many of the women did not like to think of traveling to Kenai because some came from as far as Sterling or Kasilof.
But the biggest concern of relocating to Alaskalanes was that it only has one women's league and it bowls Friday nights. Gold Strike Lanes had two women's leagues held during the week, and many don't want to give up their Friday evenings.
Carpenter said that of six women's teams from Soldotna, she knows of only three teams that are willing to go to Kenai.
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