UPDATE: Hilo Lanes Closing Leaves Bowlers Without Lanes
by Hunter Bishop
***Updated 7:29 a.m. Tuesday, May 13.***
High school bowling teams, a junior club, senior bowlers and recreational league bowling teams in East Hawaii will have to travel farther and pay more to enjoy their game following last week’s abrupt closing of Hilo Lanes.
“We don’t have a place to go right now,” said Ian Sakata, coordinator of Big Island Junior Bowling, which had 20 to 30 young bowlers participating every week at Hawaii’s largest bowling alley.
Long-time league bowler Ian Sakata found out May 1 when bowling in a Thursday league and the air conditioning stopped operating in the building. Bowlers the following Friday “decided not to bowl” in the discomfort and by Tuesday the doors were closed with a sign saying Hilo Lanes, after 54 years, was closed “indefinitely.”
“It’s gonna affect the whole community,” Sakata said. He hopes his league can complete its season at Kilauea Military Camp in Volcano, the only bowling alternative in East Hawaii with six lanes available to the public. But other leagues are also scrambling to avoid the costly trip to Kona Bowl in Kailua-Kona.
Sakata said he is already planning to take the junior bowlers on monthly excursions to Kona for practice.
Some bowlers are bitter over the the events that led to the closing, claiming the lanes were mismanaged by the “non-bowlers” in ownership and management.
“It’s disgusting,” said Damien Chow, coach of the Hilo High School boys and girls varsity bowling teams. “I knew there were problems. It’s just the way management works there,” he said.
Chow said team practices and tryouts are currently being affected but he expects the island-wide high school league to carry on. “It will cost more money,” he said, and some smaller schools may be forced to drop out.
Chow hopes someone with knowledge of both business and bowling will invest in the future of Hilo Lanes. There has been some local interest, he said. “We’re just crossing our fingers.”
Representatives of Hilo Lanes Inc., owner of the business, have not responded to requests for comment.
Posted 4:30 p.m. May 12:
East Hawaii’s only commercial bowling alley has closed its doors.
A sign posted on the door of Hilo Lanes last week said the Kinoole Street bowling alley, established in 1960, is shutting down “indefinitely.”
The move took many in the local bowling community by surprise, including local high school teams and the Big Island Junior Bowlers Club.
Just last week Hilo High announced that sign-ups for boys and girls 2014-15 bowling teams were under way.
A notice posted on a bulletin board outside Hilo Lanes simply instructed juniors that bowling for now is “cancelled.”
Contributors to the website bowling2u.com have chronicled the Hilo Lanes’ decline. A comment May 5 by “Annomous” said the facility has been “going down hill,” eliminating lanes, cutting leagues and closing the “diner.”
The only remaining bowling lanes on the Big Island are in Kailua-Kona and at Kilauea Military Camp in Volcano.
In January, an anonymous comment from “bowler” also criticized management for failing to fix damaged lanes. “What’s happening … ? Still see broken lanes … . Now the sign says bowl at your own risk.”
State business business registration records show Hilo Lanes Inc. owned by Sherman and Roanne Kaopua. Company officers include Renton Nip, president; Robert L.S. Nip, vice president; Roanne Kaopua, secretary-treasurer; and Roland Nip, director. None could be reached for comment.