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Bowling: New Westchester owners need to focus on kids

Wally Galkstands front his pro shop's new locatiinside PlazLanes Highlas it gets ready open. | phoprovided

Wally Galka stands in front his pro shop's new location inside Plaza Lanes in Highland as it gets ready to open. | photo provided

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Updated: August 25, 2013 6:41AM



Usually the summer is a down time for bowling, in any region. But it’s been an active kegling scene in Northwest Indiana from the business end of things.

First and foremost, as reported in the Post-Tribune last month, Westchester Lanes in Chesterton was in trouble and set to closed. But last week an unlikely savior appeared in Seven Peaks, which owns the water park in Porter previously known as Splash Down Dunes before it closed a few years back.

So Seven Peaks saves that water park which was an eye sore on U.S. 20 the last couple years and now has customers again. And so shall Westchester, hopefully, after it was supposed to see its last bowler last Saturday. Instead, Seven Peaks general manager Matt Phair said his company wanted “to save Westchester for the community.”

The only downside is that it won’t be your prototypical bowling center anymore.

The owners of Seven Peaks are Mormon. The water park isn’t open on Sundays and neither will the bowling alley, whatever it will be named (I’m guessing something like “Seven Peaks Bowl”). There will also not be a bar/lounge, and you can bet that will affect league participation.

Phair said there will be meetings and evaluation when it comes to bringing leagues back, but I just can’t see the Thursday Men’s Handicap, for example, coming back without a lounge. Same for the Wednesday Men and the Saturday Mixed. There are multiple centers not that far away begging for the teams in those leagues.

But the most important aspect of league bowling could come back, and here’s my official plea to Phair and Seven Peaks to keep that part of Westchester: the kids.

The 16-lane center has sponsored the Chesterton High School bowling team for more than 10 years, and has hosted a decent Saturday morning youth league forever. Both of those need to be continued if Seven Peaks truly has the interests of the Duneland Community in mind. As far as I’m concerned as a longtime region bowler and director on the Lakeshore Bowling Association board, Seven Peaks can do whatever it wants with the center, as long as bowling lanes are being used. But when it comes to the youth and high school leagues, don’t mess with them.

Another business move: Galka’s Pro Shop, which has been the only standalone pro shop in Northwest Indiana for a couple decades since Hal Lieber’s shop in Merrillville closed, will not be a standalone anymore.

Wally Galka, who followed in the footsteps of his dad, Andy, in the shop on Sheffield in Dyer for 34 years and opened a second location at Wheatfield Lanes a couple years ago, will close both locations and move his business to Plaza Lanes in Highland.

“Truly, the only thing we are changing is our address,” Galka said in an open letter on his pro shop’s Facebook page. “Change is good, and I feel that we will be better than ever.”

I think he’s right. The key words in the business world now are downsizing and consolidation, but Plaza Lanes is a better location for Galka’s for multiple reasons.

Locals at Junior Gold: There were several local youth bowlers competing in last week’s North Pointe Junior Gold Championships in Detroit, Mich., but only three made it past 15 games of qualifying. Calumet College bowler Mitchell Katic finished 77th with a 196 average, while Jake Yankauskas of Burns Harbor finished 145th with a 186 average.

The best region bowler came from the lone girl to survive the tough 15-game qualifying session on three different lane conditions. Boone Grove High School graduate and soon-to-be Stephen F. Austin University bowler Paige Kraushaar barely advance by three pins, then moved her way up to finish 36th with a 189 average.

Lakeshore votes for new hall of famers: The Lakeshore Bowling Association had its annual membership meeting on July 21 at Stardust II with a record turnout for the third straight year. This time, though, the attendance blew last year’s record out of the water. After having 85 association members (it’s open to any bowler in a Lakeshore center) last year, the official number was 115 on Sunday, though after that number was announced, a handful more arrived, so it was more like 120.

Election of new directors, officers and hall of famers is the usual agenda. Ken Laviolette was voted the new association president, while Diane Struebig will be the first vice president and Tim Slinker the second VP.

Outgoing president Jeff Snuffer was elected into the men’s hall of fame, as was Fred Nystrom. On the women’s side, Faye Thomas and reigning Post-Tribune bowler of the year and tourney champ Kelly Gough were elected.

In other association news, the annual hall of fame and awards banquet has been moved to Duneland Falls banquet center in Burns Harbor. It will be on Sunday, Nov. 10 this year.



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