HEBRON – It’s been nearly three months since Hebron’s bowling alley, Blue Valley Bowl, shut its doors after sustaining structural damage during a January snowstorm.
It closed Jan. 18, and nearly three months later, the bowling alley’s future remains in question.
“I was just sick for the rest of the day,” Hebron mayor Doug Huber said Thursday, recalling the day he learned the bowling alley shut. “It’s been a part of my life for all of my life. I think we all feel the same way.”
On Thursday, Hebron residents gathered at the Hebron Activity Center for a public brainstorming session to give their thoughts and offer ideas on how Blue Valley Bowl can move forward, and eventually reopen.
“My hope is that people would step forward and get some committees going and see where it leads us financially and personnel wise,” Huber said.
About 25 people showed up. Some from Hebron, others from surrounding communities like Ohiowa.
Everyone there was in agreement – they want Blue Valley Bowl to continue. The exact plan going forward, though, isn’t crystal clear. Blue Valley’s Bowling League Association is holding a banquet on Friday, Apr. 12 at Toad’s Place in Belvidere. The hope now is that some more defined plans and strategy will emerge from that.
Huber, who called Thursday’s meeting, says his hometown bowling alley has been there his entire life. He, and hundreds of others, are determined to keep it up and running.
“I think it has a lot to with nostalgia,” Huber said. “I mean, it’s been there all my life. It’s very depressing when I drive by there, knowing it’s closed. It’s depressing for people in the city. It’s been their life, too.”
Blue Valley Bowl first opened in 1958. Owners Dale and Janice Klaumann, who have owned the alley since 1964, have already sold all of the equipment inside. Even the lanes are gone.
After about a nine-inch snow fall in early January, the cinder block walls of the Blue Valley Bowl building started to buckle. That caused some of the roof to collapse.
Huber says it would cost about $250,000 to renovate the current building. He estimates it would cost about the same amount to start over at a different location.
Patrick Kenner of Thayer County Bank, who calculated some sales assumptions for Blue Valley Bowl, says the alley has to bring in roughly $240,000-$244,000 annually to break even on expenses.
Sales assumptions from 2020-2022 estimate that the alley would make a gross profit of about $222,790 annually.
Until Blue Valley Bowl reopens, Hebronites have bowling options in York, Superior and Washington, KS. All are within about a 50-mile radius.
Kenner said that regardless of what profit Blue Valley Bowl turns in the future, its greatest asset is the commodity it brings to the area. When open, an estimated 220 bowlers pass through its doors every week.
“People from Shickley, Bruning, Hubbell, Fairbury and from all over are bumping elbows there,” Kenner said. “It’s the best community builder of the area.”
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