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Voyageur Lanes sold, doors close

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Yes, Voyageur Lanes bowling alley in Detroit Lakes is closed. Yes, those with equipment inside will get their items back.But for now, there’s no need for panic. That’s the advice from Men’s Bowling Association Secretary Rod Boyer. “As long as the word is out there that it’s been sold, there should also be word that not to panic just yet,” he said. “Don’t panic. It’s not like a fire sale or anything like that.”

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The bowling alley closed suddenly June 12, prompting people to question if it would open again and if they would have access to their belongings.

“The (real estate) property and the business have been sold to the same people,” former owner David Spies said. “It went rather quickly.”

Spies, who has owned the business since about 1990, said the business wasn’t even listed for sale, but contact was made between him and the new owners, and they were interested in purchasing it.

“I had no clue of these people. They’re very nice people,” he added, though he declined to name the new owners.

The buyers are a family from Valley City, N.D., according to the Becker County Assessor’s Office.

The contract for deed is for $1,137,500, with $305,000 due up front and the rest by May 1, 2015.

Spies said he doesn’t want to speak for the new owners, so he can’t say what their plans are for the future of the bowling alley.

“We’ve certainly encouraged them to (keep it open) and the associations in town will be encouraging them to continue at that site for at least this year so something can be done with a new relocation,” he said.

Boyer said he will be writing a letter on behalf of the Men’s Bowling Association to ask the new owners to keep the facility open another year.

 “The new owners are very cooperative, and of course they want to see people get their equipment out if they decide they’re not going to reopen,” Boyer said.

As for the sudden closure of the bowling alley, Spies said it’s the new owners’ responsibility to reopen the business so he can’t speak to that, but closing it gave his employees a chance to take their vacations before it will potentially open back up.

He said that longtime manager Guy Hopper will return Tuesday from vacation and more answers will be determined then as to the future of bowling another year, to when it will reopen and when people with equipment inside can retrieve it.

“Guy has the list of everyone with equipment,” Spies said. “He will be back next week and any concern there is on equipment will be addressed then.”

Should have moved earlier

The bowling alley is located at 1375 West Lake Drive, next to the Pelican River outlet from Little Detroit Lake. It also includes lakefront footage.

Six years ago, Spies proposed developing the bowling alley property into waterfront condos. His plan included tax increment financing through the city that would assist him in relocating the bowling alley in town. The city turned down the request 4-3.

The Detroit Lakes Development Authority members said it wasn’t a blighted area and the DLDA should not be financing market-value housing.

“The bowling center needed to be relocated at the time. That was the better time to relocate to something new and with more visible traffic location. It was really needed then, and I hope it’s not too late,” Spies said. “I don’t think it is, but it would have been a lot smoother, easier and beneficial for the bowling community (years ago).”

Spies said what really hurt and disappointed him about that vote is about two years later, the city voted in favor of a developer building condos by the marina using TIF.

That project fell through after its approval.

“That was a hurt. It was their business to vote against mine if they didn’t feel it was right for how they should use tax increment financing, but then two years later they turned around and voted for a just-alike project.”

He said it’s too bad the city didn’t help him relocate the bowling alley back then because it would have supplied about $80,000 in taxes.

The future of bowling

“I’m very interested in the continuation of the bowling center,” Spies said.

At this point though, he said he can’t do anything about opening a new bowling alley in town because it would be unethical of him to open a business to compete with the one he just sold.

“This next bowling season, it would be impossible to get something up and running, so there needs to be a continuation for this next year at the current site,” he said.

After next year, he said it would be the appropriate time to get a permanent, new bowling alley up and going if the new owners chose to not run the Voyageur Lanes property as a bowling alley anymore.

“I have a lot of confidence in the new owners. They’re not totally inexperienced to the bowling industry,” he said. “They bought it more for the property, but they are not foreign to the bowling industry.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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