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Looking for New Lanes: Bowlers Striking Out After Hartford Alley Sold

  • Ian Fitzpatrick, 12, of Claremont sets up a trick shot to solve a split while bowling at Maple Lanes, the bowling alley owned by his parents in Claremont, N.H., Sunday, March 16, 2014. Maple lanes is one of the few options available to Upper Valley bowlers since the closing of Upper Valley Lanes and Games.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Ian Fitzpatrick, 12, of Claremont sets up a trick shot to solve a split while bowling at Maple Lanes, the bowling alley owned by his parents in Claremont, N.H., Sunday, March 16, 2014. Maple lanes is one of the few options available to Upper Valley bowlers since the closing of Upper Valley Lanes and Games.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Robert Burby of Newport lines up a shot on a candle pin lane at Maple Lanes in Claremont Sunday, March 16, 2014. "On Sundays we just bowl for pleasure," said Burby. "And get a little practice, which we need."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Robert Burby of Newport lines up a shot on a candle pin lane at Maple Lanes in Claremont Sunday, March 16, 2014. "On Sundays we just bowl for pleasure," said Burby. "And get a little practice, which we need."
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ian Fitzpatrick, 12, of Claremont sets up a trick shot to solve a split while bowling at Maple Lanes, the bowling alley owned by his parents in Claremont, N.H., Sunday, March 16, 2014. Maple lanes is one of the few options available to Upper Valley bowlers since the closing of Upper Valley Lanes and Games.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Robert Burby of Newport lines up a shot on a candle pin lane at Maple Lanes in Claremont Sunday, March 16, 2014. "On Sundays we just bowl for pleasure," said Burby. "And get a little practice, which we need."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Claremont — Tracy Ferris nibbled at a slice of cake topped with chocolate ice cream in the arcade at Maple Lanes on Sunday.

She and her seven-year-old daughter, Sierra, came to the Maple Avenue bowling alley for a birthday party.

“They seem to enjoy it,” she said. “It keeps ‘em out of trouble.”

She added that bowling is an affordable, family friendly activity; an alternative to video games.

“It gives kids something to do with family on the weekend,” said Ferris.

While bowlers in Claremont keep balls rolling and pins falling, some in the Hartford area expressed disappointment that they may no longer be able to do the same.

Upper Valley Lanes and Games, located off Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction, closed its doors in August.

Following the alley’s closure, Quechee resident Teresa Currier “held out a lot of hope over the last several months that something would happen; that somebody would buy the place and reopen it.”

Currier said her hopes were dashed by news that The Car Store plans to purchase the property and convert it into a Subaru dealership.

Currier expressed disappointment upon learning that The Car Store would be relocating from its current site off Route 5 in Norwich to Bowling Lane across from White River Toyota and down Sykes Mountain Avenue from Gateway Motors.

“Is it really necessary to have three car dealerships in less than a half mile?” she said. “The alley closing is a big hit to many.”

Currier’s son Ben joined with a group of other teenage bowlers to help start Hartford High School’s first bowling team a few years ago, she said. He helped lead the team to a state championship victory last year.

The sport is important to Ben, who was a shy child and had trouble making friends, his mother said. Bowling gave him the outlet he needed.

“It helped him be confident in himself,” she said. “He learned how to socialize in a non-threatening place.”

She added that as he grew older and more experienced, Ben began to teach others.

Upper Valley Lanes and Game’s closure means that other children, such as her younger son, may not have the opportunity her son enjoyed, she said.

She added that she has a disappointed 10-year-old bowler at home now.

“I have to tell him it’s not going to open,” she said.

Currier also counted on weekly bowling nights for her own social life, she said.

“Many of us lost our leagues.”

Alternative bowling alleys in Claremont, Springfield, Vt., Rutland, or Barre, Vt., are too far away, she said.

Missie Rodriguez, of Canaan, echoed Currier’s concerns about the distance to other locations.

Rodriguez coaches the Upper Valley Hawks Special Olympics team. In order to keep the team going, she and the Hawks traveled to Maple Lanes this winter to practice once a week.

“It’s not very convenient for me and some of my athletes,” she said.

She lost 10 to 12 of her bowlers and retained just 18, she said. In addition, she was forced to give up her own league night.

“It’s too far out of my way,” she said.

Next year, she will pass on the responsibility of managing Hawks’ practices to a parent who lives closer, she said.

Cindy Williamson, of Enfield, parent of Hawks team member Betsy, said moving the team’s practices to Claremont added at least an hour to their day.

“It’s a hardship,” said Williamson.

Betsy, 30, has been bowling for at least 15 years, said her mother.

“I can’t say no we’re not doing bowling anymore,” she said.

The sport gives the athletes a chance to visit with friends and relax, she added.

“What a loss for the Upper Valley!”

Rodriguez, the Special Olympics coach, remains optimistic that someone will see an opportunity to construct a new bowling alley in the Upper Valley.

“If they build it, people will come,” she said.

Response to The Car Store’s pending purchase was mixed among those brunching at Crossroads Country Cafe on Sykes Mountain Avenue on Sunday morning.

“It’s better than it being empty,” said Wally Brown, of Enfield.

Jaiden Keefe, 10, lamented the loss of the arcade and the site of numerous birthday parties.

“That’s too bad,” agreed Jaiden’s mother, Hayley.

On his way in to dine, White River Junction native and current Barre resident Joe Green said, “if I had a choice between bowling and a car dealership, I’d choose bowling.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.