Francis Cabral of Adelphi said he has been bowling at AMF College Park Lanes for more than 45 years.
The alley is one of only two in Prince George’s County that offer duckpin bowling, Cabral’s favorite form of the sport. Starting June 1, the duckpin lanes and the hundreds of senior residents who use them will be gone.
“We were told that as soon as our league finishes, they were going to shut us down,” said Cabral, 77.
Duckpin bowling is available in about 12 states and is characterized by shorter, lighter pins and smaller bowling balls with no finger holes.
This summer, College Park’s 20 duckpin lanes will be converted into the more popular 10-pin lanes, making Dee’s Lanes in Suitland the last remaining duckpin alley in the county, said Stan Kellum, executive director of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress.
The remodeling will mean that about 12 duckpin leagues, mostly for senior citizens, can’t use the alley.
“Probably 200 or 300 bowlers will have to go somewhere else or not bowl at all,” said Bernard Floyd of Edgewater, president of the College Park Friendly Seniors Bowling League. “That’s what makes me upset. Most of these senior citizens live right in the area. It’s really a shame.”
The AMF College Park Lanes redesign comes on the heels of a 2013 merger between bankrupt parent company AMF Bowling Worldwide Inc. and Bowlmor Lanes. The new $450 million company, Bowlmor AMF, runs about 270 bowling centers worldwide and employs 7,500 employees, according to a Bowlmor press release.
Renovations to the College Park alley include making all 40 lanes conventional 10-pin lanes and obtaining a liquor license to serve hard alcohol in what Bowlmor AMF vice chairman Brett Parker referred to in the release as “creating what we envision as the ultimate American leisure company.”
After the merger, Cabral said, the alley eliminated its morning hours, opening at noon and turning on loud music and “psychedelic lights” in the evening.
“It’s like a nightclub, and that doesn’t interest me at all,” he said. “They’re spoiling it.”
Shirley Beachum of Lanham said the new additions and planned remodeling at College Park Lanes are making the venue less family-friendly.
“It [has been] very family-oriented. You see groups coming in with kids and parents coming with kids,” she said. “The county can’t afford to lose one of the facilities that is important to the community in terms of drawing seniors and drawing families.”
Floyd, 67, said he already has made arrangements to transfer his league to the closest duckpin alley: White Oak Lanes in Silver Spring. At nearly 30 minutes away, Dee’s Lanes in Suitland is twice as far as the Montgomery County alley. Floyd said the new location will cost him a 45-minute commute and may be inaccessible for some league members who don’t get around well.
Floyd said each league using College Park Lanes can pay about $700 a week to reserve the alley, whether they play or not.
“Our league is guaranteed money,” he said. “They’re not going to make that kind of money off walk-in bowling. They don’t fill the 10-pin lanes as it is.”
Diane Morris of Bowie is the secretary for the St. Ambrose duckpin league, which formed more than 60 years ago, she said. Morris said she is planning to switch her team to White Oak, but the alley can only take 12 of her 14 teams.
“It’s a dying sport, but people still like it,” she said. “They just haven’t treated the duckpin leagues very nicely.”