Boutique Bowling

After a fifteen-year absence, Jackson Hole gets a new bowling alley.

BY Ben Graham

Hole Bowl opened this spring. Photograph by Ryan Dorgan

Hole Bowl opened this spring. Photograph by Ryan Dorgan

SINCE THE TURN of the millennium, valley residents have been getting their bowling fix in the basement of the Jackson Elks Lodge on Broadway Avenue. The four-lane alley there is dingy but has a retro charm—neon lights flicker, there’s a closet-size smoking room, and bowlers keep score manually. The other option is in Idaho Falls, ninety miles from Jackson.

But this spring former registered nurse Jessica Graham MacGregor unveiled Hole Bowl, a ten-lane bowling alley she believes fills a void in a valley dominated by outdoor sports. She’s also banking on grabbing hold of a new fad that could help reverse the tide of dwindling interest in bowling across the country.
(Statistics compiled by The Washington Post show the number of bowling centers in the U.S. declined from about 6,000 in 1986 to about 4,000 in 2014.) “The new trend is boutique bowling,” MacGregor says. “It’s smaller-venue—lounge, cocktails, better food.” Summed up, she describes the difference as “artisan pizza versus corndogs.”

Hole Bowl epitomizes that difference, MacGregor says. In addition to ten bowling lanes, there’s a bar, restaurant, and laneside food service, which includes pizza, burgers, and more. Besides bowling, there’s also foosball, cornhole, TVs, ping pong tables, shuffleboard, and full-size pool tables. And there are black lights. “The whole point is it’s kid-friendly, family friendly … until the appropriate time,” she says.

MACGREGOR DECIDED TO dive into bowling on a cold January afternoon four years ago. Temperatures dipped as low as 20 degrees below zero, which isn’t unusual in Jackson Hole. MacGregor and her husband were at a loss on how to entertain their three young children. Again, nothing unusual. How the MacGregors solved the problem of keeping their kids busy is unique, though: open a bowling alley.

MacGregor grew up in the Midwest, where bowling was a staple. “I was raised in a small town in southern Indiana; it’s kind of what you did,” she says. “We even bowled in gym class.” On the topic of her own ability to knock down strikes, MacGregor is confident but tight-lipped. “I can hold my own, let’s just say that,” she says.

In the Elks’ Broadway basement, there are many bowlers who can hold their own. On any given night, you can find balls rolling and league players eating burgers on paper plates. “We love doing this,” says bowler Jay Ankeny as classic rock—“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” by The Band—blares from the basement’s speakers. Groups of men, young and old, sit at tables, their eyes glued to the handwritten scores projected onto the wall. This league’s season is thirty weeks long.

It’s the same group of people every week, every year. “It’s the camaraderie we have down here,” Ankeny says. His team is the Car Bomb Kings, and twice a week they face off against squads with names like Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

There used to be another bowling option in the valley, Jackson Bowl. T.J. “Jimmy” Anderson opened it in 1985. Anderson ran it for a while, then other investors took over, and then those investors sold it to someone else. Eventually, the alley was converted into haphazard storage space. Then, in a 2001 welding accident, it burned to the ground. Many of the Elks regulars first met there.

MacGregor wonders whether the old-timers and dedicated league players are interested in her new alley. Elks regulars say they are unsure. Most admitted they’d poke their heads in to see what all the fuss is about, but that doesn’t mean they’ll change from their favorite spot. After all, that would require them to lug their custom-drilled bowling balls across town.

Hole Bowl definitely plans on league play, which starts this fall. The alleys were constructed to the specifications of the Professional Bowlers Association. That means once the PBA certifies it, Hole Bowl can host the PBA Wyoming championships.

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; 307/699-8889; holebowljh.com

| Posted in JH Living
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