Lafayette Lanes Bowling Alley to Close Their Doors After 62 Years of Fun in Acadiana
It's the end of an era in the Hub City as Lafayette Lanes bowling alley has announced they will be closing their doors later this week.
News of the bowling alley's decision to close broke on social media when a post from Facebook user Johnny Tapia went viral in just a matter of a few hours.
The post currently has over 1000 shares and hundreds of comments from people who expressed their sadness and shared memories that spanned the entire 62-year run of the iconic Lafayette staple.
I reached out to Lafayette Lanes general manager Todd Guidry who confirmed that the bowling alley would indeed be closing for good this Thursday. Guidry, an employee of Lafayette Lanes for the last 27 years, called the news heartbreaking and cited COVID as somewhat of a final straw when it came to the ultimate decision to close the doors at the bowling alley's iconic South College shopping center location.
As our conversation continued, I could hear the bittersweet tone in his voice as Guidry looked back on the memories that were made at 2825 Johnston Street. The busloads of local students that have frequented Lafayette Lanes count well into the tens of thousands and represent generations of kids who have all grown up here in the Acadiana area.
In addition to the schools that were closely tied to the bowling alley, many young students who visited by day would often return at night to socialize with friends—especially for attractions like "midnight bowling." I can personally remember how exciting it would be to link up with friends for midnight bowling. With a live DJ playing the hottest songs, concessions, and special pricing that would allow you to bowl into the wee hours of the morning, Guidry said midnight bowling would often have a 2-hour waiting list at the height of its popularity.
Lafayette Lanes was also home to many leagues in the Acadiana area throughout their 62-year run. From high school leagues to bowling organizations, Lafayette Lanes has hosted multiple generations of league play over the last six decades. Now that they're gone, the local bowling community says the future of league play is up in the air.
Dennis "Doc" Stepanek has been a prominent member of the local league bowling community for the past 40 years and when I asked how other league bowlers were reacting to the news, Stepanek told me that the local bowling community was still trying to process the fact that Lafayette Lanes would actually be closing for good.
He also told me that their closure comes at a time when the high school bowling leagues were really starting to pick up steam. Stepanek said that Lafayette Lanes was held in high regard amongst league bowlers due to the difficulty of the lanes at the iconic bowling alley.
If you could win at Lafayette Lanes, you could win anywhere.
While many of these memories paint the picture of a successfully thriving business, the truth is Lafayette Lanes has dealt with its fair share of struggles over the years.
From the growing addition of other family entertainment options in town (ex: trampoline parks, arcades, etc.) to more and more young families opting to migrate south of Lafayette, Guidry says he has watched the family entertainment dollar get stretched thinner and thinner as the years have gone by.
Oh, and do I even have to mention the internet?
At one point, Lafayette Lanes was rumored to be looking at a location that would be more convenient for southside Lafayette residents, but Guidry says that idea never really came to fruition.
But over time, Lafayette Lanes found a way to navigate the challenges and roadblocks—even the physical ones, like the parade barricades that cause them to pretty much shut down for two weeks every year during Mardi Gras. But like many businesses, COVID was the one hurdle that they simply couldn't overcome and this most recent surge from the Delta variant has crippled them.
Lafayette Lanes is a 40,000 square foot building with about 15-20 employees. Guidry said that they found a way to get by with a skeleton crew, but mounting expenses and much-needed repairs ultimately led to the heartbreaking decision to close for good.
I could hear the despair in his voice when he told me they literally exhausted every option to keep the doors open. Above everything that we discussed, Guidry was most concerned when it came to his staff.
Guidry himself had been promoted to the general manager about 6 or 7 years ago after being employed with Lafayette Lanes for the past 27 years. Rick Boudreaux, his assistant, has been with the company for over 20 years. The bowling alley has had the same mechanic for the last 30 years.
The remaining staff is made up of a loyal crew who have stuck with Lafayette Lanes through reduced hours and displacement from the first surge of COVID. Guidry personally asked me to tell anyone who sees Lafayette Lanes on a resume, to please give them a second look."
Lafayette Lanes is owned by Malco Theaters out of Memphis, Tennesee. The company also owns the recently-renovated Acadiana Lanes which remains open across town as well as Circle Bowl in Baton Rouge, which closed earlier this year in March after being in business for 62 years (just like Lafayette Lanes).
While we're sad to see Lafayette Lanes go, we will definitely cherish the memories from the last 62 years for decades to come.