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Monday, April 16, 2012

Serra Bowl - Rest in Peace, My Final Thoughts

Serra Bowl Bowling
Just yesterday (Sunday, April 15th), was Serra Bowl's last day of service to the community. It was a place for people to go bowling, drink beer, sing karaoke, have a meal, celebrate birthdays, and play in a league.

Now, Serra Bowl is permanently closed. Things are silent, the parking lot empty, and now the lanes will have to be taken out and the place emptied in not a lot of time.

I'm going to share some last thoughts about Serra Bowl. Some of it is good memories, and some I have some questions about:

The best memories...
For me, Serra Bowl has been here since I was a little kid, bowling with friends with the air blown bumpers in the gutters. I started bowling again just months ago when SF State started their first staff & faculty league, and while it was just monthly league games, it brought a lot of my co-workers closer together, and allowed me to find a physical activity that was both fun and challenging.

Sure, I hit a bunch of gutter balls and accidentally rolled my ball into the gate, but looking at the environment, it showed a lot of benefits, especially the kids. It's nice to see the kids having so much fun with their families, whether it be playing the latest video games, having a pizza party, or just rolling the ball down the bumper lanes. The alley kept the kids out of trouble, and since it's so easy to access via BART and Samtrans, even people without a car can go bowling.

There was always ample parking all the time (except when the carnival was here), a feature that even the Classic Bowling Center can't replicate. The prices was fair and the staff was always helpful. And I'll always remember getting my first custom drilled bowling ball after getting lessons.

Questions and Doubts
Sometimes, I wonder why the lanes had to close. There's not been much information told to us patrons about what's going on, only a bunch of rumors. What I do know is the 99 year old landlord that lives next door in the brown house, did not want to renew Serra Bowl's 50 year lease. Even the daughter of the landlord stated it's basically time for the alley to go, and there's no clue on what's going to happen next to the piece of land.

Some have said (as rumor) that it's about the money; Serra Bowl was definitely profitable, even with the decline in alleys and bowlers, but some said the landlord wanted double the monthly rent, from $20,000 a month to $40,000. Others have said the landlord and the owners of Serra hated each other and once the lease was up, it was the end of the alley.

Nobody really knows what happened behind the scenes or why the month notice of the closure. It made the organizers of our league scramble to make arrangements for our May [monthly] game, and was fortunate to have the management let us play just last week.

Serra Bowl Rally

The rally that got no attention
Serra hosted a community rally and there was a nice crowd that showed-up to hold signs and chant to save the alley, but we didn't get much attention. Channel 2 was the only station that stayed around for a little while to tape the rally, and just a few local bloggers passed the word around. If we had some more media attention to this, I think it would be a better influence in renewing the lease.

Also, the rally was contained in the parking lot, including the marching. Serra's parking lot is pretty secluded and with that, you don't see a lot of cars pass by to take a look at the rally. A handful of us thought it was better to hold our signs, including my "Honk to Save Serra Bowl" sign at the nearest major intersection (which is also a freeway off-ramp), and nearly every car and truck passing by blew their horns in great support. However, a manager of the alley didn't like the idea, calling it a "liability" and told us to go back to the secluded parking lot for the rally. If they allowed us to stay near the intersection and on the sidewalk, hundreds of cars would have honked in support and spread the word of the bowling center's demise. I've learned that when you want to fight to save something, you rattle the cage as much as you can and gain the support of the people; shunning us for asking people to honk in support was a big downer; it was like hardly anyone knew Serra was to close, other than the regulars of the alley.

I wonder, how many people who attended the carnival at Serra Bowl's parking lot even knew the alley was going to close? I'd bet, not that much; although, I did get a high number of hits on my blog mentioning about the carnival and Serra's upcoming closure because (1) nobody advertised it online, and (2) my blog was the top search result when people searched for the carnival.

Where to bowl now?
Serra's closure means an influx of bowlers going to other alleys, such as Classic and Brentwood. Brentwood is planning to open a new bowling center in the future, but for now, what's is around is what Serra's patrons can use.

I know new alleys just opened in the Mission and across from AT&T Park, but those don't cater to Serra's clientele. For example, the new Lucky Strike alley across from the ballpark has a strict dress code, fancy food, a dozen lanes, and very expensive hourly lane rental rates; Serra doesn't have a dress code (as long as you are not butt naked), has simple food and snacks, 44 lanes, and hourly lane rentals starting at no more than $26 an hour. The Bay Area is an expensive place to live in, we don't have the money to go to these fancy bowling alleys, we just want some place that's simple and casual.

Losing another alley is another red X on our list of surviving bowling alleys. Thanks for all the great memories and smiles you brought to everyone, Serra Bowl. Rest in peace.

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