Bowlers struggled to keep their spirits out of the gutter at Maple Lanes’ last night on June 2.
Longtime league members and amateur rollers threw their final strikes at the 53-year-old alley — slated for demolition to make way for condos — and remembered the place where they always felt like kingpins.
“A lot of people got emotional. It was hard for everyone,” said Ashleighanna Lemmerman, who has bowled at Maple Lanes for the past two years. “Everybody thought of it as their second home.”
Night manager Andy Colon — who worked at Maple Lanes for more than a decade and closed the place up at midnight — also had feelings to spare. Colon said he was sad to see some of the last old-school alleys in Brooklyn disappear, and feared that the warm relationships formed there would die with it.
“Bowling’s been slowly going away as it is, and it was one of the biggest places around,” Colon said. “Everybody treated everybody like family. And a lot of people, they only saw each other here, so they might not see each other ever again.”
But one of the most affected was 15-year-old Michael Martell, who grew up at the bowling emporium at 60th Street near 16th Avenue, where his mother worked his entire life, and were his deceased father — also a Maple Lanes employee — taught him to bowl.
“It was just going through my head ‘my childhood is closing, what am I going to do?’ It was really upsetting,” said Martell.
Martell got to throw the final frame at Maple Lanes, in honor of the many years he spent there, and used his late father’s ball for the final throw. Nine pins went down, and the seven was left standing.
Building owner John LaSpina — whose father Peter opened Maple Lanes in 1960 — decided to sell the land to a developer last year, claiming it was worth more money than the value of the business. Current plans have a 112-unit upscale apartment complex taking its place.
Brooklyn still has a fair amount of bowling alleys, but none come close to the 48-lane glory of Maple Lanes. For instance, Shell Lanes on Bouck Court in Gravesend has 16 fewer lanes, while the 34-lane Gil Hodges Lanes on Strickland Avenue in Mill Basin turned about half its lanes in 2003 to a gym. Melody Lanes in Sunset Park has just 20 lanes. And three years ago, the borough’s bowling scene suffered a big blow when Mark Lanes on 88th Street in Bay Ridge was demolished and replaced with a parking lot.