Mad Trappers bowling alley set to close this spring

Whitehorse bowlers should knock some pins while they still can. Mad Trappers Alleys, Whitehorse's only bowling alley, is set to close this spring following the end of the season.

Whitehorse bowlers should knock some pins while they still can.

Mad Trappers Alleys, Whitehorse’s only bowling alley, is set to close this spring following the end of the season.

The bowling alley, located in the Riverdale plaza Leisure on Lewes, hasn’t turned a profit in years, said plaza owner Chris Sorg.

“The bowling alley has been a labour of love for a number of years,” said Sorg. “It doesn’t actually turn a profit really.”

“It isn’t just the fact that it’s a money-loser, it’s been that way for a long time, the equipment is in such an old state of repair,” he added. “It’s extremely old equipment – like the pins-setters and that stuff. It’s just reached a point where it will be needing a major overhaul. It’s just reaching the end of its life here…

“The equipment is killing us there. We’re looking at having to invest maybe $100,000 to refurbish or replace (equipment). It’s throwing good money after bad because we really don’t have a profitable business there.”

The five-pin alley with 10 lanes opened in 1976, says Stephen Kwok, who has managed the alley since 2002. Kwok has mixed feelings about the potential closure.

“To me, it’s half and half,” said Kwok. “Half is disappointment because I have to give up something that me and my wife really enjoy. But the other way I look at it is relief because the machine is getting really old. It’s almost 40 years old.

“Like an automobile that is 40 years old, I’m sure a mechanic can fix it every day, but that’s not the point.”

Mad Trappers still sees a lot of action. It is home to men, junior, mixed and senior leagues. It hosts a number of corporate, birthday and Christmas parties each year. Big Brothers and Big Sisters hosts fundraising events there.

Special Olympics Yukon also uses the alleys and has prospered from the practice lately. They won Yukon’s first-ever team medal – a silver – and came away with three individual medals as well at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in July.

Mad Trappers is also practice grounds for the teams who compete in the Youth Bowling Canada National Championships every year. Yukon has sent junior teams to the championships every year since 2001, said coach Kevin Murphy.

“We send kids out every year, from Newfoundland to B.C.,” said Murphy. “I think we’ve stopped in every province, with the exception of the Maritime provinces.”

“I’m not surprised. The economics of the decision are fairly apparent to me,” added Murphy, who also plays in the men’s league. “I’m disappointed, of course, because it’s one of the recreation sports that people can enter into at any age and continue the rest of their life enjoying. I’m disappointed that the sport won’t be available in Whitehorse after decades of bowling being taken for granted as something to do in this town.”

Kwok, whose son Harrison won a silver at the junior nationals in 2002, has informed leagues that this will be the last season. But closure of the alley is not an absolute certainty.

The arrival of an investor with deep pockets, or a sizable jump in attendance, could potentially keep it afloat, said Sorg.

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

“If the sales were to double or triple – doubling would be enough. There’ll have to be an awful lot of additional activity.”

If Mad Trappers does close, Whitehorse bowlers will have to gas up the car to get some frames under their belts.

The Watson Lake Recreation Centre has four lanes that were recently upgraded to include computerized scorekeeping.

“It’s going to run for another eight months or so, then we’ll see what happens,” said Sorg.

“There are quite a few leagues and various commitments that are already in place and obviously we didn’t want to do anything to harm those commitments, and give people adequate notice and make them aware.

“We don’t have a firm plan in place for a transition, we’ve just come to the decision it might be time to cut our losses here and just move on.”

“A miracle can happen, but we don’t plan on that,” said Kwok. “It’s a possibility, if I find an investor. That would be a totally different story.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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