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City council won't spare bowling alley

Whitehorse city council has knocked down a plea to save the city's only bowling alley on Monday evening.

Whitehorse city council has knocked down a plea to save the city’s only bowling alley on Monday evening.

Harold Sher, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Yukon, was hoping to convince councillors that the city should take over Mad Trapper Alleys.

Unfortunately, his pitch fell in the gutter.

The alley, located in the Riverdale, hasn’t turned a profit in years and is set to close this spring. The five-pin alley with 10 lanes has been around since 1976.

Sher told council that his group raises more than 20 per cent of its operating budget during its Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser.

“We respectfully ask that the city begin a study to determine the feasibility and costs associated with providing bowling lanes,” he said.

“We believe thousands of people would applaud the city for getting out in front of this issue and taking the lead to invest in a bowling facility. Once infrastructure is there, operational expenses could be covered by user fees.”

Sher said he’s been told over 90 bowlers use the lanes on a weekly basis, including participants in the children’s league, men’s league and senior’s league.

Mad Trappers is also practice grounds for the teams who compete in the Youth Bowling Canada National Championships every year.

A better building would encourage even more people to come play, Sher said. A new facility could be designed like the one in Watson Lake, which is adjacent to the town’s community centre, he said.

Coun. Kirk Cameron said there is a long history of bowling in the Yukon but he couldn’t recall government ever getting involved to make it work.

“If you look around Canada you have a lot alleys that are run by the private sector,” he said.

“They’re able to turn a profit and the business community makes sure it works. I just wonder if it needs a different business model to make it work here.

“I’m not convinced it should be taken over by government.”

Mayor Dan Curtis echoed Cameron’s statements.

A bowler for more than 40 years, Curtis said losing the bowling alley would be a “great loss to the community.” But a municipality’s key responsibilities are to provide services such as water, sewage, garbage and infrastructure, he said.

“The Canada Games Centre is being subsidized $3 million a year by taxpayers and in that facility there is lawn bowling, which is very popular,” he said.

“We don’t have the space, the funds or the cash to rent a place or redesign one. Hopefully someone can come forward and perhaps look at a new location.

“I’ll be the first one there when it opens. But it’s not something I could in good conscience support.”

Following the meeting, Sher said he felt city council listened to his views but did not hear them.

“The fundamental reason why the current bowling facility isn’t profitable is that over the past 20 years there has been rapid expansion of subsidized city recreational programs and facilities creating competition for discretionary recreational spending,” he wrote in an email afterwards.

“The fact remains there are several user groups who will be without a facility this spring.”

In late September, plaza owner Chris Sorg told the News the arrival of an investor with deep pockets could potentially keep the facility afloat.

“If the community really demonstrated it’s prepared to support it at a level that has not been there - like I said, we haven’t made an arrangement with a future tenant at this point,” he said at the time.

“We have made the decision but barring anything miraculous happening, something unexpected happens, and an investor coming along saying they want to purchase the facility, then we’ll see what happens.”

- With files from Tom Patrick

Contact Myles Dolphin at