Cherry Point officials say the Stars N’ Strikes Bowling Center, closed for the last nine months for major repairs, will stay closed for the near future and may not open again.
Budget shortfalls are blamed for the closure.
Mike Barton, deputy director of public affairs at Cherry Point, said the bowling center was originally closed for repairs to its hurricane-damaged roof, which have now been completed, but the pinsetters used for bowling operations need costly updates.
Barton said that base commanding officer Col. Philip Zimmerman was forced to make the decision not to reopen the facility "due to forecasted reductions in the budget and a need to support those services that most benefit service members and their families."
"It would be an effort in futility to reopen the Bowling Center at this time until further guidance is available as a result of the (Headquarters Marine Corps) analysis of (Marine Corps Community Services) programs," Zimmerman said in a statement.
Barton said the decision to keep the bowling alley closed, pending the review, was done within the past week. He said the center has operated at a loss since 2008.
Barton said all base MCCS operations, including the currently open Sound of Freedom Golf Course, are under review. The operations are monitored based on finances, customer satisfaction and feedback on an annual basis.
"Subsequent to this local review, a higher-level review is under way by Marine Corps Community Services at Headquarters Marine Corps, the results of which could further affect MCCS operations at MCAS Cherry Point," Barton said.
Kathy Donham, whose husband is a 30-year Marine Corps veteran, has been bowling at the facility since they moved here 15 years ago. She has been on a letter-writing campaign to get the facility opened.
She said the closure would affect her women’s league, which she said is meeting on Aug. 23 to discuss moving to bowling facilities in New Bern or Cape Carteret.
"I’ve got 40 women that bowl in that league and we’re going to have to decide whether to disband our league or move it to another facility," Donham said.
She said as a tournament bowler she is required to be in a league, and the closure of the alley would impact her and many other bowlers.
"Well, if this place is shutting down, I’m going to have to go find other alternatives, or quit bowling tournaments, and that’s not happening," she said.
Donham said the bowling alley has a variety of couples, seniors, women’s and youth leagues, some of which have about 80 members. She said the center also hosts Craven County Special Olympics bowlers.
"It will affect a lot of people if they close down this facility," she said.
The 24-lane bowling alley, built in 1966, has a snack bar and arcade with pool tables air hockey, basketball and pinball games, offering entertainment options for families, Donham said.
"They have birthday parties there, for young and old, so what better place to take a bunch of 13-year-old kids to have some fun, get a birthday cake, hamburgers, hotdogs, and bowl two games for a very inexpensive birthday party," Donham said.
Retiree Scott Menger said he goes to the bowling alley twice per week. He said the closure of the alley is hurting Marines who can simply walk over from nearby barracks.
"Some of them use it for lunch. Some of them use it for unit get-togethers when the weather’s bad," he said. "You always see maybe 10, 20, 30 people bowling there together. I just can’t understand why they’re doing that."
He said Extreme Bowling, when specialty lighting is used on Friday and Saturday nights, has proved popular among teenagers and young Marines.
"My understanding was that they were making money doing that," he said.
He said the bowling alley was a perfect spot for his grandson.
"I was taking my grandson in there twice a week to bowl and to play the video games downstairs in the game room. He’s 4 years old," Menger said. "When there’s no football game, you’ve got all the high school kids that come in. The local camps around here use it in the summer. The Cherry Tree House used it in the summer and we retirees use it, so you’re looking at 4 years old to 70 years old."
Donham said the closure of a skateboard park and paintball range on base leaves few options for families.
"The only thing out at that base that is family oriented right now, where everybody can participate, is the bowling alley," she said. " … It’s the only facility on that base that has any form of recreation where all participants can partake, and these young Marines, if they don’t have that place, they’re going to go out in town and you know what happens then. It’s not a pretty sight."