Maplewood Bowl to close its doors April 21

The above clipping, from the late 1960s, touts the bowling center’s role as a gathering spot for all ages. (submitted photo)

Locals recall fond memories of the lanes

Imagine a place to go on the weekend where you could find leisure activities, food, drinks, live music and dancing all under one roof. You may have pictured a place like Maplewood Bowl, located at 1955 English Street.

Long-time area residents may recall Maplewood’s bowling alley, which opened in 1961, as a once-popular place that housed live bands, bowling leagues, a discotheque, bar and restaurant.

Since the ‘80s, however, bowling for sport has declined in popularity. Live bands gave way to boy bands, and the building’s video game arcade became more popular than its dance floor.

Now, the bowling alley, which was renamed “Maplewood Lanes,” will close its doors April 21 due to bankruptcy and lease negotiations.

Even after AMF, the world’s largest owner and operator of bowling centers, began operating the building, the changing times became too much for the establishment.

The corporate company went into bankruptcy last year for the second time in 12 years, citing a 36 percent decline in league memberships since 1998 as a main factor in their financial troubles.

The building’s value is estimated around $387,000. The land value, however, is worth around $800,000.

Fond memories of the lanes

Many community members remember Maplewood Bowl when it was at its height of popularity in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“It’s kind of a staple in the community,” city council member Marv Koppen said. “30 years ago, it was quite the attraction.”

North St. Paul resident Kitty Sundberg remembers bowling at Maplewood Bowl with a women’s league from 1970-1985.

“I bowled with a league called the Pokey Jills,” Sundberg said. “We bowled in the afternoons. At the time, Maplewood Bowl had a nursery area in the basement where they would watch kids of all ages. It was a good way to be with your kids but still get a break.”

“It was a really nice place, and a great night spot,” she added.

Maplewood Heritage Preservation Commission Chair Pete Boulay said he bowled as a league member in his youth, though his scores did not reflect much improvement over the years.

“When I was a kid, I was on a bowling league for three years. I was terrible. I even bowled a (score of) seven once. I had half the place cheering me on to see how low I could make the score,” Boulay said.

For local residents still looking to enjoy the experience of going bowling after April 21, Sun Ray Lanes on the East Side of St. Paul or Pinz in Oakdale are the closest bowling alleys. Otherwise, pop in Wii Sports and have some at-home fun in the living room.

You can call to reserve a lane for the alley’s last days of operation by calling Maplewood Lanes at 651-774-8787.

Johanna Holub can be reached at or 651-748-7814.

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