VERO BEACH — Vero Beach bowlers will have to find a new place to lace up their special shoes and tote their bowling balls now that Vero Bowl has shuttered its lanes.
Crews are busy disassembling the bowling alley at Majestic Plaza after its owners, Sunbelt Recreation Centers of Tallahassee chose not to renew its lease.
It was “actually a welcome announcement,” plaza owner Michael Rechter said of Sunbelt’s decision. Rechter said he had been trying since 2007 to get Sunbelt Recreation to clean up and improve the bowling facility to no avail. Rechter now has plans to invest more than $1 million of his own funds in upgrading the bowling alley and signing a new bowling operator to the site. He said he has just such an operator waiting in the wings but did not want to name names until the deal is completed.
Rechter bought what had been the Luria Plaza for $11.5 million in 2007 and had inherited Vero Bowl.
“I was stuck with this terrible, crappy bowling center,” Rechter said.
Sunbelt Recreation Centers had three 3-year renewal options on its lease, according to Rechter, and could have opted to renew the lease through as long as 2019 if it had chose to do so.
With its closure, Rechter is now focused on reinvigorating the alley and turning it into a family entertainment complex — a place where families can host birthday parties, co-workers and friends can meet for a drink after work or catch the big game on TV over snacks.
Rechter suspects that the bowling prices will either remain the same or be lower after the bowling alley reopens in the spring under new ownership. He noted that given the prices for bowling at Vero Bowl seemed high given the alley’s aging condition.
Until the bowling alley reopens in either March or April, bowlers can either travel north to Sebastian to bowl at Ercildoune Bowling Lanes or south to Port St. Lucie.
Richard Anderson, the owner of 43-year-old Ercildoune Bowling Lanes in Sebastian, said that he has been receiving calls from bowling leagues and teams from Vero Bowl over the last couple weeks trying to find a time available for play.
The small alley has just 12 lanes, compare to 32 lanes at Vero Bowl, and is hard pressed to accommodate the displaced Vero Beach bowlers.
So far, Anderson has been able to fit in one league team, which will take over the bowling alley on Saturday afternoons – a time that had once been open for individuals.
Anderson said he wasn’t surprised to hear the Vero Bowl had closed, noting that he had believed it was only a matter of time. Being in the bowling business, he had heard complaints from bowlers who relocated to Ercildoune due to broken machines, faulty scoring systems and “nasty” bathrooms, Anderson said.
Along with at least one league moving north to Sebastian, Anderson said he has already noticed new faces coming to the lanes since Vero Bowl closed earlier this week. How many are visitors to the area due to the holidays and how many are from Vero Beach, he’s not sure.
“We would like to win the business there (in Sebastian and Port St. Lucie) back,” Rechter said of his hopes for the new bowling alley attracting bowlers who left Vero Bowl for better lanes.
Vero Bowl had also been the place for Vero Beach High School’s bowling team. How the team might be impacted by the bowling alley’s closure remains to be seen. The bowling season for the school is currently over and does not get started again until next fall – long after the new alley is set to open.
Rechter said that he would expect the high school to continue using the bowling alley for its practices and competitions.
“We would love it,” he said.
Want to bowl?There’s just one place in Indian River County were people can bowl for now – in Sebastian.
Name: Ercildoune Bowling LanesAddress: 14325 US 1, SebastianPhone: (772) 584-5245Cost: $2/game most days
Open Bowl: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or Noon; Monday and Tuesday 8:30 p.m. to Close; Friday 9:30 p.m. to Close; Saturday 3 to 11 p.m.; Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
League Play: Monday, Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to Close; Thursday 9:30 a.m. to Close; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.