Couple restoring bowling alley featured in 'Kingpin'

Couple restoring bowling alley featured in 'Kingpin'

PITTSBURGH — In nearly every corner of Carrick Classic Lanes, dusty bowling balls peer out of the shadows like surprised faces.

"If they could talk, they'd have one heck of a story to tell about this place," said Lisa Casen, who has owned the alley with her husband, Jeff Jackson, since 2007.

When it was constructed in 1929 as Stanley Parlors, the Brownsville Road building boasted two floors of duckpin bowling, a variation of the sport that uses smaller balls and pins. The venue changed ownership and names numerous times over the decades and was converted into a traditional American 10-pin bowling alley in 1961. It remained in operation until 1995, shortly after it was featured in the Woody Harrelson bowling film "Kingpin."

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The couple from Adams Township are working to restore the recreation center - which also houses three apartments and Whovilles bar.

The project has proved more difficult than making a 7-10 split.

After years of neglect and harsh winters, parts of the roof collapsed onto the wooden lanes. The couple filled 17 Dumpsters with water-logged debris, gave the building a new lid, replaced all of the electrical wiring and plumbing and repaired the complex ball-return and pin set-up mechanisms.

They've also managed to salvage a lot of the furniture and fixtures that gives the facility a retro vibe. Black-and-white snapshots passed down to them by previous owners show that not much has changed.

Seattle-based photographer Kevin Hong recently included Carrick Classic Lanes in his photo documentary called The Vintage Alleys Project. Since 2012, he's been traveling throughout North America taking pictures of small-town bowling centers. So far, he's visited about 70 venues in 18 states and Canada. He'll continue documenting the history of the sport until there are no more places left to go.

Technology is overtaking the industry, through the popularity of "glow" bowling, which relies on black lights, fog machines and music videos to attract younger clientele.

"I feel that recreational bowling today occurs in an environment very similar to a nightclub, with the lights turned down and the music played loud," Hong said. "Modern bowling centers are trying to up the ante on atmosphere and the facility - to make them truly state-of-the-art."

Carrick Classic Lanes, he said, has a historic feel and appeal that attracts traditional bowlers like himself; folks who don't want to see strobe lights flashing while they're attempting a strike.

"Carrick is a unique opportunity in that it has been closed for so many years, but everything is still there," Hong said. "And Lisa and Jeff are probably the only people who have even come close to having an interest in reviving that place. There's a lot of work to be done, and if Jeff and Lisa don't do it, there will probably never be anyone who comes along wanting to do it as much as they do."

The couple received contributions and business advice from bowling alleys across the country, including their regular haunt, Mars Lanes in Mars, where Jackson has bowled since he was a child.

It was Jackson's late-father's dream to own a bowling alley. He's determined to make it a reality.

The couple's Facebook page has nearly 500 followers since it launched last summer. In the meantime, they're busy running Whovilles, Carrick's go-to spot for hot wings and cold craft beers.

They hope to host "Kingpin" movie parties once they're back in business.

"It's going to take time for it to come together, but, when it does, it's going to be a true family bowling experience," Casen said. "I think that's what this neighborhood needs."