Members of the public came out Wednesday night to urge Kenai City Council members to support Charlotte Yamada’s effort to reopen Kenai’s bowling alley.
Yamada updated the council on recent actions she’s taken to gather funding for the bowling alley, which would help fund equipment updates. Yamada has been working towards reopening the bowling alley since it closed in late 2015.
“It is taking a long time to get this process done,” Yamada said. “It’s a very specific business we are trying to get back up and on its feet, and that in and of itself is kind of what we are fighting against.”
Because of the specificity of the business, and because there are so few bowling alleys in the state, getting funding to update the building to code and to buy equipment is proving difficult.
The Kenai City Council held an executive session at the end of their Wednesday meeting to discuss a request for renegotiation of terms regarding the sale of the bowling alley property. The council unanimously passed a motion authorizing the city manager to renegotiate the terms of the bowling alley opportunity. The administration came to no decision but said at the meeting they are going to continue negotiating with the owner of the building, Sue Chang, and her business partner Yamada.
Yamada said Thursday that progress with the bowling alley is up in the air. At Wednesday’s meeting, she was optimistic about the bowling alley’s potential.
“It does lend itself to being just what our community needs,” Yamada said. “I’m just crazy enough to jump on board.”
The bowling alley was built in 1984 as Kenai Bowl. It sat on city-owned land in Kenai’s airport reserve, and the owners paid an annual lease, which went to support the Kenai Municipal Airport. Most recently, Ken Liedes, who operated the business as Alaskalanes, owned the bowling alley. The Clarion previously reported his annual lease to the city was $27,000, which he defaulted on before shutting the alley’s doors in late 2015. The city reclaimed the building and sold it for $450,000 in February of last year to Anchorage-based commercial real estate consultant Dean You.
Kenai resident Teea Winger also spoke to the council in support of the bowling business. She said bowling league dues alone would offer a significant profit to the bowling alley. Winger said it would cost her $2,500 in dues for one bowling season. With 12 lanes and four to five people on a team in each lane, she said the bowling alley would have a strong market.
“We’re trying to definitely build up the city of Kenai,” Winger said. “Between this, and the arcade that’s going in, this will really give a lot more activity to the Kenai area than we’ve seen in the past.”
Jeanie Carter, Yamada’s aunt, said the bowling alley would be another place for young people to hang out in the community.
“It’s really nice to know that there’s going to be somewhere else you can go as a couple or as a family besides the movies or out to eat,” Carter said. “That starts adding up dollar wise and weight wise. I have two special needs kids that are very active and I would love to see another place for them to go.”
RaeEllen Kurzendoerfer is a Kenai resident, mother and educator. She also sees the bowling alley as another option for the community’s youth.
“I have six children of my own… My two younger boys are always asking me ‘mom when can we bowling?’ andIhave to tell them that we have to go all the way to Anchorage to go bowling,” Kurzendoefer said. “It’s been a huge part of our community and I think with the Yamadas running the business it will flourish for the youth in our community.”