It’s been decades since the upper valley had a bowling alley but that’s about to change as a local man is in the midst of creating one in Snowmass.
Mark Reece recently signed a lease on a roughly 6,000-square-foot subterranean space below Venga Venga, situated along Fanny Hill, said commercial real estate agent Ruth Kruger, who brokered the deal.
“We’ve been working on [finding a space] for three years,” she said. “It’s hard to make financial sense in doing a bowling alley.”
But Reece and the owner of the building, Lance Hool, have reached a rent price that apparently will pencil out for the start-up business.
He said he’s been eyeing the space, and negotiating with Hool and his representatives, for almost three years.
“I was trying to capitalize on the right price for that space,” Reece said. “We couldn’t make ends meet. … We were willing to pay [a price] and they were willing to come down.”
Reece said he has received zoning approvals from the town of Snowmass Village and will soon submit a building permit application. He said he hopes to be open by the summer.
An avid bowler himself, Reece had the vision to put an alley in the Aspen area and bought eight lanes off of a friend who was buying up large bowling centers around the country. Reece said he bought the lanes, which are sitting in storage in Detroit, for “pennies on the dollar.”
“I knew I would use them some day,” he said.
Large bowling alleys, ones with 26 or so lanes, aren’t financially performing like they once were, and the industry is now moving to “boutique” operations, he said.
The one in Snowmass will fall into that category, with gourmet food — at least not out of a brown bag or a deep fryer — and there will be couches, not the plastic chairs seen in traditional alleys. It will be family oriented and there will be league play.
“I’m not going to make it your run-of-the-mill bowling alley,” Reece said. “It’s what you would want to build in your own home.”
The space is located in the old Timbermill building, which also houses the ticket office and guest services for the Aspen Skiing Co., locker rooms for SkiCo employees and the Snowmass Clinic.
The new bowling alley, which Reece has not yet officially named, is just down the hall from the clinic. It can be accessed from Daly Lane or from the Snowmass Mall. Reece said he doesn’t think the location off the beaten path will present any problems.
“I imagine most of the traffic will come off the mall,” he said. “I could put a bowling alley in a cave and people will find it in the upper valley.”
Reece, who moved to Aspen four years ago, said Kruger took him to every basement space in Aspen and provided blueprints to those he didn’t scope out — but the rent prices weren’t feasible.
“I stumbled into a great situation,” he said. “Snowmass is a much better spot for so many reasons. … It’s a blessing in disguise that I didn’t leverage myself for four lanes in Aspen.”
Reece declined to disclose what he is paying per square foot.
“We are in for a very reasonable price,” he said. “The landlord was willing to make it happen.”
The closest bowling alley is El Jebowl in El Jebel. Reece said his pricing will be competitive with what they charge per game. El Jebowl charges $4.50 a game and $3 to rent shoes.
The Snowmass space originally was a movie theater, then transformed into a stage theater, then a ballroom and conference center, and was most recently rented by the Snowmass Village government for its offices while a new town hall was being built.
“The room is designed perfectly to put in a bowling alley,” Reece said, describing it as rectangular and long. “I can’t wait.”