Tri-State Lanes closed its doors Monday, ending 40 years of strikes, turkeys and the occasional perfect game.
AMF Bowling Centers, which owns the Ringgold Road alley, announced Monday it was closing the center. The company will continue to operate 270 centers across the country after closing 12.
"Sometimes we've had situations where there's been urban sprawl over the years and a once-good location becomes less desirable," said Merrell Wreden, vice president of marketing for AMF. "It was simply financial performance and looking at the centers on an individual basis, which any chain does from time to time."
Wreden said running the equipment and paying the 12 to 15 people needed to operate the alley can be expensive. The East Ridge center simply wasn't drawing enough revenue to justify its continued operation.
Scott Vandiver has served as a leader in the Chattanooga Area Bowling Association for about 15 years. He said the closure is a huge blow to the 1,700 league bowlers in the area, many of whom will have to find new leagues to join.
Most displaced bowlers will move to one of Chattanooga's three other alleys, he said, but the closure could have a larger immediate economic impact on both the bowling community and the city.
Chattanooga is now scheduled to hold the next Southern Bowling Congress tournament in March and April using Tri-State Lanes. But with the alley closed, the four-weekend event, which is expected to draw 2,500 to 3,000 bowlers and their families to the Scenic City, may go somewhere else.
"We have to hold these big events to make money. To lose one would be pretty bad," Vandiver said. "It's a big deal for us."
Vandiver and several other bowling league leaders have scrambled to move their league nights and other events to the Chattanooga's other alleys. But Vandiver expects the community, which has been on the decline for years, will take a big hit with this closure.
Nevertheless, bowling has stayed somewhat popular in Chattanooga, according to leaders at remaining alleys. Nearly one in five Chattanoogans, or 149,000 people, went bowling in the past 12 months, according to Scarborough Research.
A good deal of that business comes from casual bowlers. Tri-State Lanes may have suffered because it drew a large portion of its business from league play.
"Tri-State was an old-style bowling center," said Michael Dean, general manager of Pinstrikes on Perimeter Drive in Chattanoga, which opened nearly two years ago. "We're more of a birthday party, open bowling, group type of place."
Bowling is Pinstrikes' biggest draw, but the center also features an arcade, laser tag and other games. Those extra attractions are necessary for a business with an ever-growing field of competitors.
"We didn't have Redbox 10 years ago, we didn't have movies on demand 10 years ago," Dean said. "Kids didn't have the video games and the computers that they have now. There's so many different options."
With a league play vacuum opened by Tri-State Lanes' closure, he expects Pinstrikes will pick up a good amount of that business.
Vandiver and the hundreds of bowlers in his leagues certainly aren't going anywhere, even if one of their favorite alleys is shuttered.
"It was devastating, but we'll pick up the pieces and keep going," he said. "That's all we can do."