Popular bowling alley burns Dec. 31

Campus groups used to setting up functions at Durham's AMF bowling center will have to be a little more creative this semester: a New Year's Eve fire that caused major damage has shut down the center for renovations.

The flames, along with the smoke and water that caused the majority of the damage, gutted the building and left the electrical equipment ruined, said Darryl Brunson, a managing partner at AMF. Brunson was summoned to the scene following the successful evacuation of the 40 or so patrons bowling that night.

The cause of the fire was electrical, said Edward Reed, Durham County fire inspector, who cited his colleague Harold Boyd's report of the incident. "The fire happened kind of fast because the fire got up to the ceiling area," Reed said. "But we had it knocked down with no problem."

The center's 2,000 or so bowlers-1,000 of whom are league bowlers-have been forced to move to other local lanes, such as AMF's sister house in Raleigh or Mardi Gras on Farrington Road, or wait until renovations are complete 60 to 90 days from now.

The center's closure would have been longer had it not been for the fire's serendipitous timing, said Brunson. AMF was in the midst of major renovations already. After a holiday break, construction was set to resume Jan. 2.

The University's own physical education bowling class, held traditionally at the AMF, has moved to East Durham's Village Lanes temporarily.

"I'm hoping that it won't affect the students at all," said Jessie Bowen, who teaches the class. "It's not much further than where we were before."

Renovations will include an upgrade of the lanes' computers, a more user-friendly concourse, new lighting and a more contemporary color scheme.

"I think it's going to end up being great for the area," said Brunson. "It was an old landmark and now we get to bring it up to speed with all the modern bells and whistles. I think it'll give us the opportunity to serve our customer a lot better."

Senior Barry Spatzer, who first started bowling with his father at age five, said he was disappointed when he heard about the fire. Spatzer is enrolled in the University's bowling course. "Having to travel farther-it's doable but it still upsets me," he said.


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