LAKEVIEW — Is this heaven? For some local bowlers, Lakeview’s reopened and remodeled bowling center, renamed Alley Cat Bar & Grill, it just might be. Since its soft opening Dec. 1, it has the community buzzing with excitement about having a new recreational facility and another place to enjoy a dinner and drinks with family and friends.
Though it wasn’t carved into a field of corn like the baseball diamond in the classic movie “Field of Dreams,” Alley Cat owner Larry Cole is revitalizing a local pasttime and is rebuilding not only the interior and exterior of the bowling alley but also the community’s hopes and excitement for a new and fun destination in town.
“The exterior looks about the same as before but you need to walk in it. That’s when you will experience what I call the ‘wow factor,’” said Cole, who is currently working on remodeling the exterior. “My buddy walked in and immediately said, ‘Where am I?’ He thought it looked awesome.”
Built in the early 1980s, the 12-lane alley has exchanged hands several times since then. It closed almost three years ago, leaving a noticeable void in the Lakeview community and leaving local bowlers, including the high school bowling team, having to travel to lanes out of town just to enjoy the recreation.
Now, with knotty pine covering the walls, USBC-certified lanes, an added pro shop, banquet room, locker room, shoe rental, office space, and, perhaps as soon as the end of January, a restaurant and bar with a full menu, Alley Cat Bar & Grill is quickly transforming into the destination for fun in Lakeview.
“It’s going to be fun for everyone,” said April Finup, Cole’s girlfriend and manager of the bowling alley. “We are getting the youth, adults and families back here again, where it’s affordable, closer to home and in a family-oriented atmosphere.
“As a mom,” Finup added, “it’s brighter, cleaner, updated and the lanes aren’t breaking down all the time. My kids have been bowling since elementary school and it was hard to see all the kids, including the high school team, having to travel to bowl. Now it’s going to be great to watch the kids interact, high-five each other and enjoy each other’s company right here in Lakeview.”
When Cole, who frequented the former Lakeview Bowling Center as a bowler, saw an opportunity to purchase the alley, he jumped at it.
“I was sick of seeing it being shut down and I wanted a place to bowl,” Cole said.
Cole has solidified his support and rooted himself firmly in the Lakeview community, relocating his other business, Larry’s Tire Recycling, from Blanchard, opening two other businesses, Central Michigan Tire, in its second year, and Wildcat Towing, which opened this year. He even started a fruit market, called Market Place, next to Central Michigan Tire.
His children, Joey, a junior, Jacob, in sixth grade, and Mason, a fourth grade student, attend Lakeview schools and are avid bowlers. They’ve been telling their father many of their peers are anxious to have the Alley Cat fully open.
“I’m excited to see their faces when this place is completely open,” Cole said.
The Alley Cat is open Sunday through Thursday, from noon to at least 9 p.m.
Call (989) 352-5700 for more information.