Sherwood family transforms old Marion bowling alley

No matter what extreme elements the Kansas weather presents, folks in Marion and surrounding communities have a safe-and newly refurbished-haven in which to relax and have fun.

William and LaDonna Sherbert bought the former Mar Bowl Lanes last November and recent upgrades have made the local business, now called SherBowl Lanes, an oasis for family entertainment.

“It doesn’t matter what the weather is outside, our lanes are still usable,” William Sherbert said. “We bought the place because we wanted the people in the area to have something to do-a recreational outlet.”

Located at 131 S. Thorp in Marion, the building was constructed in 1962, but 40 years of use signaled a need for improvements.

The Sherberts did just that, with the help of son Danny, daughter Donna and son-in-law Ron Funk.

“We’re all working together on this thing,” Sherbert said. “But we didn’t get this all fixed up by ourselves. A bunch of bowlers from this area put a lot of hard work into this alley.”

Sherbert purchased the bowling alley from Bob Reisenhoover in November and has managed the facility since then.

“Bob did come in and help me a few times with the machines and gave me some advice,” Sherbert said. “I’ve never owned a bowling alley in my life. In fact, I’d never even been in the back of one until I bought this one, so I’m learning as I go.”

“I don’t really know why we bought it-we had the chance and we took it,” Sherbert said. “After we were in it for awhile, we thought maybe we could do better if it was cleaned up and looked more appealing.”

Remodeling began in May on the eight-lane facility. Work continued throughout the summer and culminated with the first day of public bowling on Friday, Sept. 3.

“We totally went through all the (pin-setting) machines this summer,” Sherbert said. “We had a gentleman come up from Wichita and go through them-they’re old, but they work really well.”

Besides the mechanical improvements not noticeable to the untrained observer, Sherbert and his crew also completed a cosmetic makeover.

“We took down the walls, insulated them and put up Sheetrock,” Sherbert said. “The place also had a drop ceiling, which we took out and went back to the original slanted bowling-alley ceiling.”

New lighting throughout the facility brightened its image.

Other improvements included regrinding the lanes, overhauling the approach and replacing the bowling benches with tables and chairs.

Perhaps the most important change is the addition of an automated scoring system produced by Brunswick called AS80.

“This system lets people bowl and not have to worry about who’s going to keep score and whether it was kept right or not.”

Included with the system are 24-inch console monitors on the floor in addition to overhead projection scoring.

“So far, the people have really enjoyed the addition of the scoring system,” Sherbert said. “You can sit back and talk, and when it’s your turn, you get up and bowl.”

“It makes it a lot more fun. It’s just a more-fun environment.”

Sherbert said the alley provides an opportunity for anyone, from league competition to a recreational family outing.

“I think we offer a great atmosphere here,” he said. “Bowling is one activity that everyone can enjoy, no matter how you approach it. You can either be as good as you want or just go out and have fun.”

Presently, SherBowl is occupied by leagues four nights a week:

— Monday, 7:30: Five five-man teams.

— Wednesday, 6:30: Eight five-woman teams.

— Friday, 7:30: Six five-man teams.

— Sunday, 6:30: Eight mixed league teams.

“We’d love to have two or three more teams join our Monday and Friday night leagues,” Sherbert said. “It’s not too late to start.”

He said they would like to have a couples league on Thursday night, but teams are needed.

“We welcome everyone who would like to form teams.”

The alley offers ample bowling opportunities for those who aren’t interested in league play.

“We try to open at 1:30 each afternoon, seven days a week,” Sherbert said. “People can come in for open bowling any afternoon and bowl until an hour and a half before our leagues get going. We’ll stay until the last one bowls-within reason.”

Sherbert said open bowling is encouraged any afternoon, Tuesday and Thursday nights, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

SherBowl also aims to provide an alternative-activity for area children, Sherbert said.

“One of the things we want to encourage is children’s birthday parties,” he said. “We try to give a special rate for that and other things for kids. We want as many kids as possible to enjoy our bowling alley.”

Another amenity offered at SherBowl Lanes is a snack bar.

“We have a small kitchen, so we can cook short orders such as hamburgers, french fries and onion rings,” Sherbert said. “We can offer or make just about any snack food you want.”

The fee for bowling is $3 for a single game with an additional $1 for shoe rental, if needed. Ample supplies of shoes and bowling balls are available for patrons.

“I don’t know how many shoes and balls we have here, but I can assure you we won’t ever run out of them even with all eight lanes going,” he said with a chuckle.

Sherbert said the first year will dictate how many other changes will occur at the alley.

“We have plans for the future, but we want to wait and see what this next year brings,” he said. “If all goes well, we’ll be doing some additional fun things.”

The immediate future includes the possible addition of a youth league on Saturday mornings.

“We also want to have a grand opening and will do so just as soon as we get all the advertisements put up,” he said.

Bowling used to be a thriving sport in Marion, but the interest has dwindled, Sherbert said.

“A lot of people in Marion County bowl, but got out of the habit-but now we have a great place for them,” he said. “It seems like people dropped out of bowling, and we hope the additions we’ve made will entice some of them back to the sport.

“If people like going to other towns and bowling at bigger alleys, I hope they’ll give us a try because right now, I’ll compete with what they’ve got.”

Sherbert said he and his family will never take community support for granted.

“We appreciate each person who comes in and uses our lanes,” he said. “This alley is privately owned, but it’s a community bowling alley.”

Anyone interested in bowling in a league or scheduling a party can call 620-382-2630.

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