Plaza Lanes undergoes major facelift

The owner of Plaza Lanes is confident a move to more modern ways can mean a return to the past.
“We want to bring the bowling centre back to where it was,” Arnie Rollins, who also owns the bowling alley in Dryden, said about his commitment of roughly $150,000 to install string pins and an automatic scoring system at Plaza Lanes, as well as re-sand the present lanes, among other improvements.
“The great thing about a bowling centre is it pays for itself, and doesn’t rely on tax dollars,” Rollins said. “It’s a huge part of the town’s recreational scene. Everywhere we go in town, people are excited and talking about it.
“It was one of the best centres around at one time—and we feel it will be again,” he added.
Removing the Double Diamond automatic pin-setting system, which was installed during Plaza Lanes’ original construction in 1961, turned from being a possible month-long process into not even a week-long affair thanks to volunteer efforts.
“It only took us four-and-a-half days from start to finish,” said Rollins, who is so enthusiastic about the transition that he was helping unload the 53-foot trailer full of new equipment when it arrived here Monday afternoon.
“We always had four or five people on site working at it.”
Rollins said the changes had been in the works since he took over Plaza Lanes last October, and said maintenance of the new pin-setting equipment will be markedly cheaper and easier.
“They’re like used cars,” he explained in describing the out-of-date equipment. “There’s so many moving parts on the machinery, it’s hard to keep after it all the time to keep it maintained.
“The new system has a motor that drives a chain, and that’s basically it.”
For those bowlers who might be uneasy in moving away from the freefall style of pins, Rollins said it’s just a matter of mastering the mental game.
“The bowlers might take a while to get used to it, but we have to get it through their heads that they’re still bowling on the same lanes,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Plaza Lanes manager Sharon Larocque believes the introduction of automatic scoring will attract novice bowlers of all ages.
“Too many people who come during open bowling don’t know how to keep score,” said Larocque. “This should help in that regard, and especially when it comes to things like our ‘glo-bowling’ nights.
“Parents are more likely to come out on nights like that with their kids if they don’t have to be worrying about scoring.”
Another boost for the centre came May 13 when the Liquor Control Board of Ontario granted Plaza Lanes a licence to serve alcohol after four-plus decades of being a booze-free business.
But Rollins warned that doesn’t mean the facility will turn into a haven for the general drinking public.
“I don’t want us looked at as a bar,” he stressed. “We’re still a bowling centre first.
“But it does provide an extra incentive for bowlers to have a night out and have a drink if they want it,” he added. “At the same time, we don’t want to compete with any other [alcohol-serving establishments].”
A second counter that will act as the new bowling rental area will be built along the side wall near the entrance while the present counter will be converted into a food-and-beverage service area.
Rollins said the renovations should be completed by the end of this month, with Plaza Lanes closing for the month of July due to staff holidays.
A grand re-opening then is planned for mid-August, with a free bowling night to be offered to all league members from this past season so they can try out the new equipment.