JEFFERSON CITY – Capital Bowl in Jefferson City is being transformed into a new family entertainment center. This comes after the May 2019 tornado damaged the business.
Capital Bowl first opened as West Gate lanes in 1961. The business announced in October 2019 that the building would not reopen.
Former owner, Tom Mendenhall, wanted to sell the property rather than repair it. However, no one was interested until recently.
Prior to COVID-19, several local business owners were prepared to take over the building. But, the pandemic slowed down the process. Earlier this year demolition started to begin on the building.
Brad Vandegriffe, co-owner of the new family entertainment center, saw the demolition beginning and knew that the new owners needed to act quick.
“Three or four months ago we noticed something going on at the building. They were starting to do demolition,” Vandegriffe said. “We thought, it’s either now or never.”
Vandegriffe is joined by Scot Drinkard, who owns Spectators Sports Bar and Grill, Mark Gerlach who owns Gerlach construction, Brian Bloomer who co-owns Storage Solutions with Gerlach and Jeremy Geisler who works alongside Vandegriffe.
Vandegriffe said there have been no issues so far working with four other owners.
“So far, it’s been very productive, because we all have different experiences,” Vandegriffe said. “We try to just hear everybody out and so far it hasn’t come down to a vote yet.”
One idea that was unanimous among the owners was the importance of a place like this coming to the city. Before closing its doors, Capital Bowl was the only bowling alley within 20 miles of the city.
The new owners believe Jefferson City is in need of more places that offer activities for families.
“Based on the demographics and the population here in Jefferson City, it’s needed. We’re hopeful it’s something the people will use,” said Vandegriffe.
The new family entertainment center will have new bowling lanes, an arcade, sports simulators and a restaurant. Some of the bowling lanes will even be VIP to give people privacy.
One resident who has lived in Jefferson City for 40 years is excited for the new change.
“I often read about and hear about the need for more family entertainment here in Jefferson City. The fact they’re mixing the fun center with the bowling and with the restaurant and bar, this is going to work,” said Bill Mulcher.
Greg Helton, who bowled at Capital Bowl in the 80’s and 90’s, said he was devastated to see the building damaged following the tornado.
“It was sad to see all these buildings destroyed after the tornado,” Helton said. “If my health starts to get better then I would love coming out to bowl at the new center.”
Helton and Mulcher said they remember bowling as kids and how it was a place for anyone to come out.
“Back in the old days, bowling alleys were fun congregation places,” Mulcher said. “Even young kids could just go to the bowling alley, rent some shoes and have some time playing.”
Vandegriffe said he also enjoyed bowling growing up. He said he was around the bowling business for most of his childhood.
“My grandfather ran a bowling alley for many, many years in a little-bitty town east of here called Owensville,” Vandegriffe said. “Spent my early years around the bowling alley.”
Now, Vandegriffe looks forward to creating a bowling business of his own alongside the other co-owners.