Dwindling business has forced owners of a Cahokia bowling alley to close its doors.
Red Bird Lanes general manager Jerry Anderson said the building at 1801 Camp Jackson Road closed following a bowling league event Wednesday night.
“It was a very emotional day yesterday,” Anderson said. “I had a lot of tears yesterday.”
He said considering the ongoing decline in business and needed repairs, including a new roof, Anderson said he and the 24-lane bowling alley’s other two investors voted to close the building.
“Financially, it was just not feasible,” Anderson said. “The building is 54 years old and needs a new roof. There just wasn’t a lot of community support.”
The bowling alley initially opened as Cahokia Bowl and has been known as a number of names over the years. Anderson lived three blocks from the bowling alley and first started cleaning tables and working other odd jobs at Red Bird Lanes 42 years ago in exchange for free bowling. He rose through the ranks over the years and had been running the bowling alley during the past five years.
He said the current investors have made more money with each year, but it was not enough. He said that over time, the bowling alley has seen declining business and a dwindling consumer base. He estimated that as much as 90 percent of his business came from outside the city.
He said the current investors have invested more than $150,000 in the business within the past five years, Anderson said, but they have decided that it is no longer feasible.
“The investors were good people who really took care of things here,” he said.
Red Bird Lanes is the latest metro-east bowling alley to close. In 2012, AMF Bowling Lanes closed in Granite City, the same year that the bowling alley chain filed for bankruptcy, the second time in 11 years.
In 2007, the owners of Bel-Air Bowl closed 1703 North Belt West in Belleville and relocated to Panorama Lanes at 200 South Belt West across town, which was renamed Bel-Air Bowl.
Montclaire Bowl closed its doors in Edwardsville about a decade ago. The Harvard Square shopping center was built in its place.
“Bowling has died off some, but it’s coming back,” Anderson said. “But it’s not what it used to be.”
When Matt McSparin set out to open a bowling alley in Edwardsville, he researched the industry and found that more bowling venues were operating with multiple attractions under one roof.
“The one thing we were hearing and found out from the bowling industry is that traditional business and leagues and that kind of approach was plummeting in the United States,” McSparin said. “It was just on a downward spiral. The single-purpose bowling-lane facilities were dying a slow death, and so the bowling industry said we have to do something about this.”
What McSparin did was include a laser tag arena, arcade, restaurant and lounge in addition to his 12-lane bowling alley at Edison’s Entertainment Complex on Illinois 157, which opened in 2012. He said business has thrived at the 30,000-square-foot entertainment center and has increased its business by 20 percent to 30 percent with each year.
“One of the biggest things that we learned in researching the industry is that they have three or more pieces of entertainment married together,” he said. “Stand-alone laser tag doesn’t do as well as laser tag with bowling and an arcade.”
In the meantime, Anderson is looking for a potential buyer for the Cahokia bowling alley, as well as other venues to accommodate his bowling leagues. He said he has heard from several bowling alleys on both sides of the river offering to take them as well as one who is interested in hosting Cahokia High School’s bowling team.
Anderson is also keeping the Cahokia bowling alley’s phone line open in the interim. The phone number is 618-337-5840.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.