Jack Workman started out washing dishes at age 20 at Sunset Bowl. While he's cooked, served beer and managed other tasks, he still washes...
Jack Workman started out washing dishes at age 20 at Sunset Bowl. While he’s cooked, served beer and managed other tasks, he still washes dishes there at age 62.
For his entire working life, it was enough. His customers were his family, and, not having any kids of his own, he appreciated watching the young ones who bowled on Saturday mornings grow into adults and bring their children back to bowl. The 5-cent coffee and the 15-cent shoe rentals went up in price, but the place always was home. Workman and about 50 co-workers learned this week that they will be laid off in mid-April when Sunset Bowl closes for good. A real-estate developer, Avalon Ballard LLC, bought the 1.15-acre property Wednesday for $13.2 million from Sunset Bowling and Recreation, King County records show.
Sunset Bowl is a Ballard neighborhood landmark and a must-see tourist stop mentioned on the city’s Web-site list of “Seattle icons.” It’s one of the Puget Sound’s few remaining 24-hour bowling centers and leaves North Seattle without a bowling alley.
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Just over two years ago, Sunset Bowling sold off the iconic Leilani Lanes bowling alley in Greenwood to an apartment developer for $6.25 million. At the time, the company said it was taking advantage of soaring land values, but that it had no plans to sell Sunset Bowl.
“Anything is for sale if the price is right,” said Verl Lowry, 61, a Sunset Bowl manager who’s worked there for three decades. “We’re a very successful bowling center. It’s real hard for [the employees] to understand.”
It’s the second time this week that a well-loved Ballard property has made headlines. The old Denny’s restaurant a block from Sunset Bowl is at the center of a dispute between preservationists and a condo developer over whether the city should grant it landmark status.
Like the Denny’s, some old-timers at Sunset Bowl see the bowling alley’s demise as part of a commercial boom sweeping their historic neighborhood.
“Ballard was always a small community, and now it’s becoming part of downtown Seattle,” Lowry said. “It’s too bad.”
Sunset Bowl was built in 1956, according to county records, during an era when bowling was a more widespread social activity and alleys were expanding across Seattle. Some estimate there were more than 30 bowling alleys in the city at that time.
Once Sunset Bowl closes, Seattle will have only three left: Garage on Capitol Hill, the West Seattle Bowl and the AMF Imperial Lanes in South Seattle.
For Rachel Eden, 22, who remembers celebrating her brother’s first birthday at Sunset Bowl and hanging out there with her high-school friends, none of those will do. The University of Washington senior, who was bowling at Sunset Bowl Friday, is doubly disappointed because she used to switch off between it and Leilani Lanes.
“They always have better French fries here,” she said, just before rolling a strike.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org