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COVID-19 forces the permanent closure of the only bowling alley in Fort Frances

Plaza Lanes has been in operation for six decades.

FORT FRANCES, Ont. — After 60 years, the lanes of the only bowling alley in Fort Frances have fallen silent for good.

The owner of Plaza Lanes blames the COVID-19 pandemic for the shutdown.

Arnie Rollins is selling the building to investors who aren't interested in operating a bowling alley.

"It hurts," says Rollins, who acquired Plaza Lanes almost 20 years ago and almost immediately spent a large sum to modernize it with new equipment and renovations.

He said the 10-lane bowling alley was built in 1961 and has been a big part of the town's recreational scene.

Rollins said all his patrons, including league bowlers and casual bowlers, are extremely disappointed.

This week, they're all coming in clean out their lockers.

"These people are my friends. You feel like you're letting a friend down," he said in an interview Monday.

He added, though, that most people understand that COVID has made it difficult for many businesses to stay in the black

In a social media post, he offered his apologies to casual bowlers and to the Fort Frances Bowling Club, saying he tried his best to keep the facility open.

"COVID-19 has decimated my finances and put me in a really bad situation," he explained.

Rollins also owns a bowling alley in Dryden and another in the Sudbury area.

"I'm not a person with a lot of money. I just don't have the funds to carry all three of them. And I got this offer. Unfortunately it comes down to a business decision," he said.

As the president of an association that represents bowling alley operators across the North, he said "this is another centre we're losing, so this is not something I'm happy about." 

Rollins said he's aware of numerous other facilities in the province that have shut down recently, including half a dozen in larger cities.