Bitterroot Valley Lanes, the 12-lane family bowling center in Hamilton, has new offerings, longer hours and package deals.
Open since 1984, the center is owned by three sisters – Jan Wilson, Cherie Louis, and Nancy Musial, Jr. Knut Hoelstad is the manager with ideas for increasing fun at the bowling alley.
“I’m making it family-friendly by adding game machines and putting the ticket redemption plan in place,” Hoelstad said.
He has also created two unusual bowling experiences at Bitterroot Valley Lanes – Cosmic Bowling and Monte Carlo Bowling.
Cosmic Bowling, which begins at 8:30 p.m. on Fridays, is done under black lights and strobe lights.
“We turn the regular lights off and everyone bowls with disco lights going,” Hoelstad said. “We have a DJ to play music and it is a lot of fun.”
Monte Carlo Bowling is when colored pins are mixed in with the white pins for special challenges with the bowling pin placement, called the set.
“We give away 25 cents to $50 if you get a strike based on the color configuration,” Hoelstad said.
Sometimes Monte Carlo Bowling is done on Cosmic Bowling nights, and both events draw a crowd.
Leagues play at night Monday through Thursday, and Wednesday afternoons.
The Senior Special day is Monday afternoons and anyone older than 50 can play for $2 a game and half price on shoe rental.
Senior bowling is competitive. Buff Walker, 90, bowled a score of 191 last week.
The oldest senior team includes Pat Rolls, 80, Darlene Speck, 83, and Fran Plumb, 94.
Plumb, former owner of Plumb’s Second Hand store on Riverside Cut-off, said she has been bowling since 1971.
“I still like it,” she said. “I used to do competitive bowling and I’ve got trophies at home. As I’ve gotten older I’ve lost my power, but everyone here is good to me. They let me come and one day, recently, I had a lucky day and out bowled all the guys except Knut. I enjoy being with people so much.”
Plumb said she bowls twice a week and looks forward to it the rest of the week. She stopped driving this year, fellow team member Rolls takes her to the bowling alley.
Hoelstad maintains the 12-lane bowling alley and said he’s been bowling since he was a kid.
“I grew up in Seeley Lake and we used to go to Liberty Lanes on Broadway in Missoula years ago,” he said.
It might have been nostalgia that caused Hoelstad to purchase several items from Liberty Lanes when they went out of business - the giant bowling ball and pin statue are now on the roof at Bitterroot Valley Lanes and the blue signs that display high scores, league winners, and champion names hang on either side of the lanes.
Bitterroot Valley Lanes is busy on weekends and during the holidays.
“It was packed – every night,” Hoelstad said. “It was a good holiday season this year.”
Hoelstad has a sign-up sheet for people who would like to learn to bowl and plans to have beginner classes, with youth lessons and leagues.
“Hopefully we can start that this spring and run through the summer – it is one of my priorities,” he said. “It would be some lessons with a six-week mini league and those who complete the whole eight weeks would get a ball and a bag. I did that before and it was really fun.”
Bitterroot Valley Lanes has electronic games, bowling shoes, bowling balls, lockers, and The Rebel Inn bar and casino for the over 21 crowd, with darts and pool. A small kitchen provides fresh-made concessions with a pizza oven, fryer, and grill.
All ages are welcome at the bowling alley.
“As long as you can throw a ball down a lane – you’re good,” Hoelstad said.
He is doing a big advertising campaign with space for business logos on walls and on the scoring screens to increase the funds available for new opportunities and equipment.
The most recent purchase was a “lane dressing” machine that strips and oils the bowling lanes keeping them ready for the best bowling experience.
Bitterroot Valley Lanes is just off of Highway 93, at 300 Skeels Ave. in Hamilton. Winter hours are Mondays and Wednesdays - 12:30 p.m. until 10 or 11 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday - 6 p.m. to close; and Sundays 2 to 9 p.m. For prices and package details, visit the Bitterroot Valley Lanes Facebook page or call Hoelstad at 381-8187.