When Ken Staub was asked to take over Patterson Bowling Center last year after the previous owner retired, he knew it needed work. But rather than giving the neighborhood spot a modern makeover with lush furniture, glowing lights, and re-stained wood floors, he is opting to maintain the alley’s vintage charm.
“I’m constantly hearing from people who say, ‘My parents used to bowl here’ or ‘I used to come here all the time as a kid,’” says Staub, who also owns Stoneleigh Lanes in Towson and Glen Burnie Bowl. “Based on that itself, you want to do the best you can to make it a proud piece of the community.”
Opened in 1927, the stalwart center on Eastern Avenue is known for being one of the oldest duckpin alleys around. In an effort to preserve the community staple, Staub is currently overseeing a quarter-million dollar renovation project that will eventually yield upgraded lanes, a new bumper system, remodeled bathrooms, and a revamped snack bar.
“At one time, bowling was known as the poor man’s country club,” he says. “But it really has become a center of community activity. It went through a period between the late ’60s through the ’90s when it went out of fashion, but now a lot of people are rediscovering it.”
The two-story building boasts 12 lanes, which are currently being improved with new lifts, belts, and chains. The challenge, says Staub, is tracking down parts that work properly with the classic machines. A new bumper system will also be implemented, replacing the foam cushions currently used to keep the ball on track.
Though the lanes are being fine-tuned, Staub is implementing the retro, pencil-and-paper approach to scoring. He explains that the company that installed Patterson’s outdated automatic scoring system has since gone out of business, and, because parts are so limited, upgrading would be too costly.
The community seems to have embraced the old-school technique: “We just tell people: ‘Here’s a score pad and a pencil, let us know if you need help,’” Staub says. “At Patterson, I find that most people are just as happy to do it this way. Keeping track of what you’re doing makes it a little more exciting. It’s just another way to get more into the game.”
In addition to the lanes, the facility will also see modernized bathrooms (which haven’t been remodeled since the late ’90s), a new sound system and jukebox, an exterior wall mural, and updated galaxy lights to be used for the alley’s late-night “Rock and Bowl” program on weekends.
The snack bar will also receive some work behind-the-scenes. Though the kitchen equipment will all be replaced, the BYOB facility will focus on classic bowling fare like personal pizzas, French fries, corn dogs, and nachos.
One of Staub’s largest goals is to expand the center’s community outreach efforts. He mentions plans to host fundraisers for local charities and first responders, as well as bring back Patterson’s youth and senior leagues. He also hopes to partner with local bars to start a Sunday-night beer league, in which each bar would take turns supplying beer.
The center will remain open during the renovations, which are estimated to be complete by summer 2017.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Staub says. “But we’re very committed to making sure everything is done right so that the center can continue as a showpiece for the community.”