Belle Lanes Is Still On A Roll -- Downtown Bowlers Are Loyal
Just one block to the east, Bellevue bankers, builders and bureaucrats are power-lunching.
Just one block to the west, Bellevue Square is beckoning noontime consumers.
Inside Belle Lanes Bowl, Joyce Tymczyszyn is annihilating her two sons and their friends, the Roeser boys.
``Let's see,'' said the 36-year-old Bellevue homemaker. ``Shane got a 33. Scott got an 80. Justin, 47. John, 68. And Joyce got 166.''
Every day, Belle Lanes offers its 32 shiny lanes, scores of video games, luncheonette and hundreds of rental shoes - smack in the middle of tidy, prosperous Bellevue. And it's been doing so since 1957; Belle Lanes was built when the city was more a concept than a reality.
It remains amid the sparkling glass office towers, one of the few downtown urban bowling alleys anywhere, let alone in the heart of the state's fourth-largest municipality.
There it sits, a curved, squat, beige bunker on some of the priciest land in the city.
Inside, it's slow and sleepy, soothingly '50s-like. The lights are subdued, the beer's on tap, the burgers are cheap and little brown glass ashtrays twinkle at most all the tables.
The bowling alley's equally retro next-door neighbor, the John Danz Theater, also owned by Sterling Recreation Organization, is due to be razed this fall, replaced by a parking lot for a new office tower.
Belle Lanes in the not-too-distant future also will be replaced, probably by offices or shops. But when that will be, no one's quite sure.
``It depends on the timing of redevelopment and the type of development that may go in adjacent to it,'' said David Schooler, vice president of Sterling Recreation Organization.
Meanwhile, Belle Lanes is acting as if there were plenty of tomorrows.
``Come in & Check out our new automatic scoring system,'' cajoles a banner draped above the entrance, just to the right of the 20-foot-high letters spelling B-O-W-L.
The new system was part of a $300,000 remodeling project that also included resurfacing the lanes, improving the luncheonette grill and installing a new automatic ball return.
Many senior citizens bowl at Belle Lanes.
The Blazing Hopefuls, for instance, a woman's league team, includes Lillian Larson, 76, who wears a pink quartz necklace while bowling.
Office workers bowl at Belle Lanes, sometimes instead of having lunch.
Earlier this week, two US West managers, wearing white shirts, dress slacks and tri-color shoes with the size on the heel, took off the jackets and tucked in their neckties to bowl three games, all for $1.49, summer bowling rates.
``We kind of snack, after or before,'' said Kieth Ohlsen, just before hitting a spare.
``He bowls a lot,'' said Royce Rotmark, just before his badly timed ball bounced off the bar scooping up the pins.
Youngsters also bowl at Belle Lanes.
Mike Petrogeorge, 15, and his sister, Joani, 10, are allowed to take the bus from their home in Redmond to bowl with their friends. None of them, they said, is allowed to go into Seattle without their parents.
Then there are the non-bowlers. Elderly men sit for hours playing cards. Bob Taylor, a 24-year-old executive recruiter, frequently pops over from his office to manage stress playing Off Track, a video racing game. Kelly Paxton, 48, a diamond-ring-wearing developer, looks forward to a cribbage game.
Paxton also enjoys the food from the luncheonette. At Belle Lanes, the turkey is roasted daily for a $3.95 sandwich. Fries - not chips - included.
Schooler, who can power-lunch on grilled mahi-mahi or fettucine putanesca whenever he wants, said he has the turkey sandwich at least once a week. ``It's my favorite lunch,'' he said.
A lot of people wondered why Fred Danz, president of Sterling Recreation Organization, decided to close the theater rather than the bowling alley.
``There were a bunch of reasons,'' Schooler said. ``One was the bowling building provides us more income than the theater building did. A lot of people are surprised by that.''
Another important reason, Schooler said, is the city's traffic law, which could halt new construction in the years to come. ``But you'd still be able to remodel,'' he said. ``The bowling building is much easier to remodel than the theater building.''
But some people think Fred Danz, president of SRO, one of the largest downtown landowners in the city and a former league bowler, maintains a special fondness for Belle Lanes, particularly the hamburgers there.
Danz, 72, denies it. ``I don't eat the burgers anymore,'' he said. ``I get the turkey sandwich.''
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