It’s a place where leagues have battled for cash prizes and bragging rights, and little kids have had birthday parties.
For some, it’s been a gathering spot with friends after work to bowl a few games and enjoy a few pitchers. For others, it was where they hung out when they were kids.
Soon, however Royal Lanes bowling center, at 1927 Brinson Road in Lutz, will welcome its final bowlers and pack up its pins for good.
The last day of operation will be May 21, said Andre Pamplona, the bowling center’s general manager.
The bowling alley has been owned for a quarter-century by Sandy and Neville Woolf, of Canada, but they’ve decided to sell, Pamplona said.
“My group was trying to purchase it. That’s what we came up to do, to try to salvage it and keep it a bowling center, but we got outbid. And, that’s it,” Pamplona said.
“I knew of a potential sale to the other group. We were doing our best to try to finalize our deal. The numbers just wouldn’t work,” Pamplona said. “The land just got overvalued.”
He’s not sure what the future use of the site will be, but he has heard that the building will be renovated for another use that has something to do with the automotive industry.
He’s sorry to see Royal Lanes go, not just because he worked there, but because the community will miss it.
“One of the things that owners don’t calculate is the impact to the community,” Pamplona said.
But, he said he understands that the owner is making a business decision
Still, Pamplona said, “Land O’ Lakes will suffer. Land O’ Lakes will hurt. People will have to drive out of their way to go to bowling centers.”
Plus, bowlers are losing a gathering spot where many have been coming for decades.
“There’s such a value … it’s intangible, you can’t put a dollar to it,” Pamplona said.
Royal Lanes had 437 bowlers in five full adult leagues and two youth leagues. One of the youth leagues was purely youths and the other was a youth-adult league, where kids bowled with their parents, he said.
“Most of the leagues are going to stay together,” he said, and most have already decided to go another bowling center,” he said.
The closest bowling alleys are at Old State Road 54 and Little Road; on Hillsborough Avenue, across from Tampa International Airport; on Armenia Avenue, south of Hillsborough Avenue; and on U.S.301 in Zephyrhills.
Ultimately, some bowlers may choose to join different leagues at bowling centers that are more convenient for them, he noted.
Most of Royal Lanes’ 18 employees also have relocated to another alley, Pamplona said, although he’s not sure what he’s going to do.
“I’ve got some options in the industry. I’ve got some options out of the industry,” he said.
When Royal Lanes ceases operations, it will no longer be a place where the clatter of bowling pins competes with memories of days gone by.
“Our Wednesday morning league is called The Lakerettes,” Pamplona said. “They’ve been bowling here, since basically the beginning.”
Royal Lanes is also the place where the Betty Strickland, who has since passed on, developed a reputation for her bowling prowess and her kindly nature.
Chances were, if you were looking for Strickland on a weekday, she’d be over at Royal Lanes.
Some days, she was known to roll as many as 10 games, but typically, she threw four or five.
One of Strickland’s biggest moments at the bowling alley came on Jan. 9, 2006, when she bowled 300 — a perfect game.
At the time, Strickland was the nation’s third-oldest woman to bowl a perfect game, according to a report published by The Tampa Tribune.
It’s also a place that figures prominently into the memory of Rachel Thompson, who worked at the bowling alley when she was young and now works at The Laker/Lutz News.
Thompson threw her perfect game at Royal Lanes. Her big moment came on Nov. 9, 2012.
Published May 17, 2017