Jim Spencer remembers his mother bowling at Lincoln Square Lanes at the Monday night ladies league. Back then, bowlers kept score on a projector and cosmic bowling was decades in the future.
“Back then, people weren’t Facebooking and Twittering and their attention spans were a little bit longer,” General Manager Spencer said. “As people passed away, some of the appreciation and memory of the place went with them.”
The bowling alley at 4874 N. Lincoln Avenue was “in very real danger of going out of business,” Spencer said.
So the manager, along with owner Dick Drehobl, took a risk: renovate the entire space and reopen. Since closing in November, the response has been overwhelming.
“People keep wondering when we’re coming back, we have them knocking almost every day,” he said. “Our Facebook page has almost doubled in size.”
An official open date isn’t set yet, but Spencer said bowlers could return in early February.
Credit card payment and draft beer are two changes for the alley. Despite the modern conveniences, bowlers will track strikes with a pencil and scorecard.
“There’s a lot of history to the place. For everything’s that different, there are two things that have been restored,” he said.
The space has been a bowling alley since 1918 and Drehobl wanted to keep the original lanes, using them for the new bar top.
The building still has its original tin ceiling, brick and focal point: a giant mural with Abraham Lincoln sitting in the middle. White paneling covered the mural during the 1980s and 90s, before it was rediscovered 10 years ago. Across the painting is the previous name of the bowling alley, Lincoln Square Recreation.
“What I think of is that original name, which is Lincoln Square Recreation, I think of that word when I think of what we’re going to do here. It’s not just bowling, it’s going to be fun,” he said.
Workers are building a stage with modern lighting and sound for more live music. Previously, Spencer said, the only light came from the glow of the dartboard and lanes.
The alley is also adding old school AC/DC pinball, Ms. Pac Man and Big Buck Hunter games.