Fire Topples Richland Center Bowling Alley

By: Justin Ware Email
By: Justin Ware Email

Center Lanes bowling alley and banquet hall went up in flames on Tuesday.

And with it went several generations of memories.

"Everybody was just in shock," said Sue Burke, who went to Center Lanes when she was a teenager. "Nobody could really believe it, because it is a landmark."

The bowling alley had been on the south side of highway 14, just outside of Richland Center, since 1959.

On Tuesday, local resident John Murphy was one of the first on the scene with his camera and says the loss is going to hurt this small community.

"It's always been busy," said Murphy. "It's always been a center, people go there for lunch and dinner, parties ... it's always been there."

Local business leaders say Center Lanes was one of Richland Center's most popular places to hold large gatherings like graduation parties or wedding receptions and they don't know where those groups will go, now that it's gone.

"I'm sure people have their reservations made here and it's going to affect weddings all this summer and maybe beyond," said Susan Price, Richland Center chamber of commerce.

Fire chief Robert Bindl says the bowling alley's owner had a hard time watching the business he's been running since 1983 burn to the ground.

"He wanted to get in and do what he could for his building," said Bindl. "We had to actually restrain him from going in."

Meanwhile, Bindl says firefighters fought the blaze for more than two hours, but eventually lost out to the poor weather conditions Tuesday afternoon.

"The wind was a major factor," said Bindl, "it was blowing everything right against us ... it was just a hard fire to fight."

Chief Bindl says no one was seriously hurt in the blaze, only some bruises for a couple of firefighers.

The cause has not yet been determined.

The chief says they hope to learn more when the fire marshall arrives tomorrow.

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