An east Beatrice bowling alley that closed last year is expected to reopen under new ownership this weekend.
The former Orange Bowl on East Court Street was recently purchased by Bowl Co., an Omaha based bowling center marketing and management company.
The alley will be rebranded as Family Bowl and Social of Beatrice, according to Bowl Co. owner Steve Sempeck.
Sempeck finalized the purchase just before the holidays. The alley closed in June when the prior ownership encountered health issues and could no longer operate it.
He plans to reopen the alley on Saturday, Jan. 25 with bowling and food available. Beer will eventually be available, though Sempeck said his alcohol license won’t be ready in time for the opening.
Sempeck said the alley will be a place where non-bowlers can go to enjoy a game just for fun, and there will be less emphasis on bowling leagues.
“Both bowling centers in Beatrice were known for lots of league bowling,” he said. "If you wanted to go bowling just as a non-bowler, you maybe got lucky and could get in on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s now turned into more of an entertainment type of an industry.
“Traditional league bowling has declined nationwide by about 65-70%. A lot of it is just social reasons. Back in the 1970s-80s there was no such thing as the internet and less activities for families and kids.”
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Sempeck added there will still be some league action for those interested, but his goal is to make Family Bowl and Social a place where all ages and ability levels can go to have a good time, without feeling intimidated.
“What you have to do now to survive in the bowling industry is you have to be a little bit of both,” he said. “There’s enough people who want to bowl traditional league bowling, and we’re going to have those here. But we’re going to supplement that by changing the culture here and really market towards families, groups, schools and things like that.”
The alley is being outfitted with new carpet and paint, while Sempeck said the actual lanes and bowling equipment were in good condition when the alley closed and won’t require many upgrades.
While bowling will be available soon, Sempeck has larger plans for the business that reach beyond balls and pins. Two sand volleyball courts, party rooms, an arcade, and restaurant with a quality menu are all being added.
The menu will feature standard “bowling alley favorites,” in addition to hand pressed burgers and chicken breast sandwiches, salads, fresh cooked buffalo wings and homemade pizza.
Sempeck owned his first center at the age of 23 and has owned and operated a variety of centers since 1986. He owned and operated Sempeck’s Elkhorn Lanes and Sempecks Bowling and Entertainment in Elkhorn from 1986-2010.
He also works as a consultant and is a member of the Greater Omaha Bowling Hall of Fame and The Nebraska State Bowling Hall of Fame.
“I have always been fascinated with bowling alleys,” Stempeck said. “I grew up in Omaha and worked at different bowling centers. I bought my first bowling center in 1986, a little six-laner in a small town in Iowa.”
The word “Social” is included in the new name, as Sempeck feels people are looking for more activities out of the home and off their phones.
“We want everybody to know that it’s a new regime and we want people to get out of their house, off their phones and be social,” Sempeck said. “The best way to be social is to go do an activity that everybody can do, and that’s bowling.”