Leagues are key to the financial success of bowling alleys like Baker Classic Bowl. Four of five leagues cancelled their seasons after management of the alley reverted to a former manager. (Baker City Herald
By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
A change in management at Baker Classic Bowl has prompted bowlers in at least four of the five current leagues to end their seasons early.
League members say theyre concerned the current bowler-friendly conditions at the 10th Street alley will deteriorate now that proprietors Andy and Launi Anderson have left, returning control to former manager Gary White.
Bowlers claim the lanes and other parts of the alley were in poor shape during Whites previous tenure.
White said he is trying to convince league bowlers that the alley will remain in good shape.
So far, he said this morning, he has spoken only with bowlers from the Coffee Cup league.
Some members of that league, which competes Wednesday mornings, plan to bowl the remaining five weeks of the 35-week season, said league secretary Irene Meng.
Other league members will not bowl, while still others are still on the fence, she said.
White said he believes he convinced Coffee Cup bowlers that the alley will not deteriorate.
He said he hopes to make the same pitch to other leagues, but thus far, he said, representatives from those leagues have not responded to his requests for a meeting.
Of course well continue to try, White said.
Leagues, which pay as much as $326 per week during their 33- to 36-week seasons, are crucial to the bowling alleys bottom line, he said.
League bowling is what pays the bill, White said.
The first league that ended its season early is the Early Bird, a group of women who bowled Tuesday nights.
League members voted last week to cancel the remaining six weeks of competition, said league president Lynne Taylor.
Each of the leagues eight 4-woman teams decided to end the planned 33-week season early, Taylor said.
She said league members are worried that the lanes will be neglected now that the Andersons are not managing the alley.
Taylor said league members also want to know why the Andersons, whom she credits with improving the lanes as well as other aspects of the business, left.
To be fair to the bowlers, they need to know what happened, Taylor said. Were not getting the whole story.
White, who is buying the bowling alley from Ronald and Patricia Edwards, said he negotiated with the Andersons but was not able to make a deal to extend their lease beyond mid-March.
White said the Andersons one-year lease, with an option to buy, expired about a month ago.
They extended the lease for one more month, but that agreement expired last week, White said.
He said he proposed several deals, including a lease extension or an outright purchase with no payments due for the first year.
Andy Anderson declined to comment, saying the matter has not been settled.
Baker City attorney John Jacobson, who represents the Edwardses, said they winter in Arizona and could not be reached for comment.
Pam Tritt, secretary for the Friday Nite Jackpot league, agrees with Taylor that the Andersons have dramastically improved the alley, and the lanes in particular.
Ive seen more 200 (pin) games in the past year than in the previous eight, Tritt said. I even had a 205, and my average is 118.
With the Andersons gone, Tritt said she doesnt plan to bowl any more.
A majority of the bowlers in the Jackpot league agreed, she said, and the league canceled the final six weeks of its 34-week season.
Other league members want to continue bowling, but theyll have to do so outside of any league, Tritt said.
Julie Fuzi, who bowled in the Monday Ladies league, which voted last week to end its season with five weeks left, said she shares Tritt and Taylors concerns about the alleys future.
Fuzi said she quit bowling there about 10 years ago because of poor lane conditions.
The Andersons greatly improved the lanes, Fuzi said.
Im very happy with the things theyve done and the progress theyve made, she said.
White said he neither intended nor wanted to return to managing the bowling alley after the Andersons signed their lease last year.
I did not want to come back at all, he said. I would sell it in a minute to someone who would come buy it.
White said he has no hard feelings about the Andersons decision.
He said he knows, from his own experiences over more than a decade of managing the alley, that the business requires long hours with meager financial gain in return.
Its a lot of hard work, and theres not very much profit margin in Baker with the economy the way it is, White said.
He said that after Ellingson Lumber Co. closed its Baker City mill in 1996, he had to get rid of four of his five employees.
White said he would like to hire a manager to run the alley, but he said that may not be possible unless he can refinance his purchase contract to reduce the payments.
Losing the leagues will only worsen the situation, he said.
Tritt said her league, the largest with 12 teams of four bowlers each, paid Baker Classic Bowl $326.65 per week a total of $9,140 for the 28 weeks the league bowled.
Other leagues, which had fewer than 12 teams, paid proportionately less.
White said he was not shocked when he learned the Early Bird League had ended its season early.
Theres always some hard feelings with a change of management, White said.
He said he does not plan to make any drastic changes to how the Andersons were managing Baker Classic Bowl.
The alley will be open an hour later than before, White said.
White said he is considering installing colored lights and a stereo system to encourage younger bowlers.
One idea, he said, is a youth night, during which the alley would be illuminated by black lights, making the pins glow.
However, installing the new lights and music system would require quite an investment, White said.
Meng said that regardless of who manages the alley, she hopes the situation is resolved to everyones satisfaction.
Its a sad thing, she said. I hate to see it bowlings fun.