Bowling alleys of the Hudson Valley

The game of bowling as we know it – played in a contemporary setting, where a 12-to-16-pound ball is rolled down an alley or lane for the purpose of knocking down an arrangement of “pins” – may have originated with the Egyptians of 3200 BCE. Approximately 100 million people in over 90 countries bowl, nearly 70 million in our country alone.

Bowling may have been imported by British, German and Dutch settlers – 17th-century paintings depict bowlers outside a tavern in the Netherlands, tossing a round missile at targets on the lawn – or could have evolved through some other iteration, such as Italian bocce ball, of Roman origins. 

Owning and operating a bowling alley usually involves offering players a whole array of entertainments in addition to a pair of shoes, a ball and a lane. Most establishments have snack bars, video and arcade game rooms, a bar serving adult beverages and spaces for group parties. Some have huge banks of TV screens above the pin end of the lanes to keep patrons thoroughly entertained. The atmosphere is noisy and colorful. Nothing is fragile or precious, which is why bowling is such a great activity for families.

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This aspect was repeated at every local bowling alley I visited in the Hudson Valley. Every owner/manager mentioned the fact that bowling can be enjoyed by everyone from the very young to the very old, and that by virtue of being age-inclusive, it brings families together. It’s an activity – with the emphasis on action rather than passivity – geared towards raucous fun.

Pat Tarsio Lanes

“Kids can’t play football with their parents,” says Tony Tarsio of Pat Tarsio Lanes in Newburgh. But children who come to the lanes with their elders get to experience being together in a memorable way. Like most bowling centers in our region, Tarsio’s opened back in the heyday of league and tournament bowling. Tony talks fondly of spending time here when he was a kid, when everyone was having fun and they’d finally drag themselves home in the wee hours of the morning.

He drops some of the big names in 1950s and ’60s bowling who used to come to Newburgh to enjoy a game or two. “Don Carter, Dick Webber, even Rocky Marciano and Frank Esposito! They’d come up on Fridays.” Evidently, for the camaraderie as much as for the bowling. He says that actor Randy Quaid, who played Ishmael in the movie Kingpin, has signed a number of pins provided by Tarsio’s, one of which is displayed in a trophy case by the front desk. He proudly shows me a poster-sized photo of Lou Campi near the front door as I leave: “He was a pro.”

Pat Tarsio, Sr. started the business in 1959 with Campi, also known as “Wrongfoot Louie,” and it has stayed in the Tarsio family for six decades. With 36 lanes, they offer junior, adult and senior leagues, birthday party packages, college nights, retro nights, Cosmic Bowling on Fridays and Saturdays and a Family Night special every Sunday, always striving to keep the sport affordable for all. The full bar is open at noon each day.

Pat Tarsio Lanes is located at 173 South Plank Road (Route 52) in Newburgh; (845) 562-5250, www.tarsiolanes.com.

Spins Bowl

Spins Bowl, with two locations – one in Poughkeepsie and one in Wappingers Falls – offers the epitome in upscale equipment and décor. Both facilities have been beautifully renovated to accommodate 21st-century bowlers, including up to 26 family lanes and separate VIP lanes for special groups. At Spins Bowl, expanded redemption arcades boast the latest in games, along with some oldies-but-goodies like billiards, air hockey, foosball and darts. A laser tag arena, open to anyone 42 inches tall/seven years old and up, offers a two-hour-max playtime with towers, bridges and fog. Full kitchens dish out a broad selection of snacks, burgers, sandwiches, salads and desserts. And bars in each location carry a complete selection of beverages.

Bob Maslosky, a manager in the Wappingers Falls location, has worked for Spins Bowl since 2014, when Bill Diamond (of Diamond Properties/Spins Bowl Entertainment Group) acquired the property. “Yes, the whole look of the place has been upgraded,” he says about the industrial-chic styling. “They did a lot of work, almost gutted the whole place. We have the VIP lanes for special events, a big arcade, a huge bar. And we just took over the restaurant recently. Things are starting to pick up.”

Maslosky distinguishes the difference between a league, which is organized group bowling lasting a certain number of weeks, and a tournament that runs for a day or two, where anyone who is USBC-certified can compete for a money prize. He talks about a plan to bump out the glass wall at the end of the lounge and extend the patio further out. “We’re right here on Route 9, but there’s not a lot to do around here. The bowling alley has been here since the late ’50s, early ’60s. We’re more of a family-oriented center now. Everything’s about families. We do host leagues when kids are at home doing schoolwork during the week, but on the weekends, they all come in.”

Poughkeepsie is the flagship Spins Bowl; Diamond has since opened Wappingers Falls and a number of other bowling centers, along with a slew of entertainment-type ventures. Working here suits Maslosky. “I’m a people person. I love talking to people, see them be happy and have a good time. A little kid comes up to you and starts talking to you. You know they’re having a good time. They’re safe. The staff is always aware of what’s going on. We have about 23 staff members, including in the concessions. We’re trying to rebuild leagues here, get more families in – generally trying to give people more to do.”

Spins Bowl is located at 1677 Route 9 in Wappingers Falls; (845) 297-8110, www.spinsbowl.com/wappingers-falls-ny; and at 47 Taft Avenue in Poughkeepsie; (845) 471-1820, www.spinsbowl.com/poughkeepsie-ny.

Patel’s Kingston Lanes

A. C. Patel is a consummate entrepreneur, owning Patel’s Kingston Lanes in our region and another bowling center in the Boston area, among other types of business. “I bought this location in Kingston in 2013; I’ve been in the bowling business since 2003. I have another one outside of Boston, which I go to every other week. I came to this country in 2002 and started these other businesses, too.”

He talks about Kingston Lanes, up on the rise above 9W. “This one was built about 1960. It was booming then. Now it’s slower, but we’ve done the upgrades: new lanes, new scoring. Every year we try to upgrade. We used to have 52 lanes, but we took 12 out for laser tag, arcade games, a birthday party room. We remodeled the remaining 40 lanes.” The comfortable, warm bar offers 24 beers on tap and a full back bar of liquors and wines. The full kitchen cranks out the food, and on Sundays a buffet is served for players. Two pool tables stand ready for action in the bar.

“We have a Monday-night pool league and a Wednesday-night dart league. Lots of leagues and tournaments, almost every day in winter. Women’s, men’s, mixed league, senior league – they bowl almost 50 weeks! Wednesdays we are almost full with leagues. Thursdays my league bowlers and seniors play for a dollar a game. We have youth league Saturday morning, and father-and-son on Sunday morning. In summer we only have three or four leagues.”

Like most bowling-center owners, Patel is particularly focused on young people. He mentions a scholarship program for junior bowlers, coordinated with local high schools for matches and bowling practice (at no charge). 

“When kids and families come and enjoy themselves, I’m very happy. They can make more friends, spend time together. Our youngest bowler is three or four years old! These days, all the kids have iPhones or iPads or computers. I never saw this when I was young. My mom used to tell me, ‘Come inside!’ Now we have to tell kids to go outside!”

That said, he mentions how people can book parties online. “Very easy access from your cell phone or computer. Everything is available on the website. Nice and easy!”

Patel’s Kingston Lanes is at 644 East Chester Street in Kingston; (845) 338-1414, www.patelskingstonlanes.com.

Ro-Lin

Ro-Lin, named for owner David Snyder’s wife Ro and daughter Linda, has been open for three decades in Red Hook, just north of Rhinebeck. Heads up, anyone looking for a business opportunity: The Snyder family is retiring and has put a For Sale sign out front. Still operating day-to-day, Snyder looks back on 30 years of running the only bowling center on the east side of the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie and Albany.

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“We’re still hosting leagues, some of which have been with us for the whole 30 years. This is a good location with lots of traffic on Route 9G. We have a bar and snack kitchen and a small arcade. We added the mini-golf course in 1998. Our lanes are the original wooden lanes – newer bowling alleys install lanes of synthetic Formica – and the pinsetters are the originals, in perfect working order. It’s a mom-and-pop business, like more than half the bowling centers in the country. The challenge is tremendous,” he adds.

But evidently, well worth the time and energy and money spent. Bowlersjournal.com reports that bowling centers have become a profitable cash business in which to invest. They cite bowling as being a $10 billion industry, with 67 million people who bowl at least once a year. They also list the average cost to build a bowling center from the ground up to be approximately $100,000 per lane. Ro-Lin has 20 bowling lanes in an 18,000-square-foot block-and-steel building, sitting on a picturesque 4.9-acre lot. If you’re intrigued by the opportunity, do the math and check it out.

If not, stop by for a game or two, anyway, and wish the Snyders well. Their winter hours are Thursday from 4:30 to 10 p.m., Friday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 2 to 10 p.m., Sunday from 2 to 7 p.m. and Monday from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Ro-Lin is located at 3974 Route 9G in Red Hook; (845) 876-6300, www.rolinlanes.com.