Rochelle Paterson, manager of Willowbrook Lanes, assures folks it will remain open for a while. (Ronda Payne/Langley Advance)

Rochelle Paterson, manager of Willowbrook Lanes, assures folks it will remain open for a while. (Ronda Payne/Langley Advance)

Langley bowling alley will close – in due time

New owners will soon be replacing the landmark with a Korean market.

by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance

Time is running short to get bowling shoes on and toss a few strikes (or at least try to) at Willowbrook Lanes.

The five-pin bowling centre in Langley changed hands back in May, sold by longtime owners Bob and Cheryl Randall.

All was not lost, however.

The new owners wanted to allow bowling for as long as possible, explained manager Rochelle Paterson.

“They’re not knocking down the building,” she said. “We aren’t 100 per cent sure on the timeline. It could be six months [until the bowling alley closes], it could be two years. It just depends on when everything falls into place for [the new owners].”

T-Brothers, owners of the Korean Hannam Supermarkets, bought Willowbrook Lanes with the intent of using the existing building for a Langley market – to add to the company’s existing markets in Burnaby and Surrey.

Paterson said the main “frame” of the building will be retained with floor leveling, wall removal, and basic setup making up the main portion of the renovation.

Knowing municipal approvals for construction take time, the new owners wanted to keep bowling going. But leagues have been cancelled or moved to other locations, she noted.

Bookings at Willowbrook Lanes for birthday parties and other group events are being taken for dates up to the end of March.

“We are guaranteed to take bookings up until the end of March,” Paterson said. “As we go on, we could get the go ahead or we could get the news that we are closing in April.”

With the new ownership, nothing else has changed at the bowling alley. Paterson confirmed prices are the same, as are hours, and specials.

“We’ve only heard good things so far, everyone’s really happy that we’re still open,” she said. She added “we have some league bowlers that are upset that we don’t have leagues anymore, but [the new owners] don’t know how long it’s going to take so didn’t want to disappoint bowlers by cutting the season short.”

A number of those leagues have gone to Cloverdale or Aldergrove, but some regular senior bowlers have continued to come in on the same days to keep bowling with friends, according to Paterson.

“They’re not super serious about keeping score they just come in for fun bowling,” she explained.

“For a lot of seniors it was just a social thing and an exercise thing. They could come and see their friends, we have quite a few groups that still come weekly.”

What concerns Paterson about the inevitable closure is what the loss of the bowling alley means to the community.

“It’s really hard because everything that there is in Langley now – we’ve got the exit [escape] rooms, the air [trampoline] park, and that sort of thing – that’s all really pricey,” said Paterson.

“The good thing about the bowling alley is that it’s really affordable for kids or families.”

Unfortunately Paterson sees bowling alleys as a dying recreation activity.

Starting costs of bowling alleys are high, popularity is down, and some residential complexes are putting lanes in as part of the fitness offerings.

Paterson invites Langleyites to take the time to experience Willowbrook Lanes before it’s gone.