Bowling alley gets facelift
The bowling alley in Hillsboro had closed; Curtis McBride had even heard that the previous owner was going to use Trail Bowl Lanes as storage space.
Curtis and Christie McBride of Wichita own Peabody Lanes and a bowling alley in Herington. They got into the bowling business because their son Josh was a competitive bowler who competed around the country. Through their travels and Josh’s passion for the sport, they fell in love with bowling. With Curtis’ connections in Peabody, they thought owning an alley would be a good idea. Christie McBride was formerly an accountant for Cessna and Curtis was a mortgage loan officer. Now, they run their bowling alleys full time.
“We just thought it would be fun,” Curtis said of the decision to buy a bowling alley. “For the most part, it’s still fun. You can’t do something like this and not enjoy yourself.”
The couple purchased the bowling alley in Hillsboro in June because they believe small towns deserve entertainment.
“Bowling is not just for people who know how to bowl; it’s for the fun and social aspect,” McBride said. “Sometimes being laughed at is part of the fun.”
Now called Hillsboro Lanes, the McBrides reopened the alley Aug. 2, punctuated by a ribbon cutting Tuesday. They waited to have the formal ribbon cutting to make sure the automatic scoring system was in place.
The McBrides have made several other improvements to the business. They put on a new roof. They painted the exterior and interior of the alley. Formerly, the color scheme in the alley included royal blue walls around the lanes, green walls around the entrance, and a peach and cream color scheme on the chairs and lockers.
They tempered the colors, with off-white around the entrance, blue trim around the lanes, and maroon above the bowling pins. The blue and maroon represent Tabor College and Hillsboro High School; Curtis McBride hopes to have Trojan and Bluejay teams compete in the alley in the future.
Many items were replaced or fixed. A mechanic from Wichita worked on the ball returns and pinsetters. The McBrides replaced the stereo system and added an automatic scoring system.
“They originally had Telescores; you had to sit there with a grease pencil and mark the score,” Curtis McBride said. “Nobody has to sit down there and do it. It’s freed up one bowler from each team.”
Hillsboro Lanes will now be open for lunch and feature a full menu. The McBrides also acquired a serial malt beverage license to serve beer at the Hillsboro bowling alley for the first time.
The McBrides wear all the necessary hats for the business. On any given day, McBride is owner, mechanic, bookkeeper, cook, and server. They split their time evenly between the three alleys.
Curtis said people do not realize the maintenance required on the machines, especially machines that are over 50 years old like the ones at Hillsboro Lanes. He said he works on the machines every day.
The McBrides are approaching their 24th wedding anniversary. However, they have had to sacrifice a lot of time with each other.
“Our work hours are during the evening. We’re on the phone throughout the day,” Christy said. “We’re just like any other couple.”
“People don’t realize how much time we give up being together to run multiple places,” Curtis said. “You have to have somebody that you love and trust to do something like this.”
Although their bowling alleys have struggled with the lagging economy, they said league enrollment is up at each alley. To increase appeal with younger open bowlers, Curtis said they would be adding cosmic bowling to Hillsboro around Jan. 1. They are currently working out purchasing the lights and the system that makes the lights react to sounds.
Despite the work and financial difficulties, the McBrides feel the bowling business has been worth the trouble so they can provide communities with a low-cost source of entertainment. A game of bowling costs $3; shoe rental costs $1.50.
“It’s hard to come to a bowling alley and not have a good time,” Curtis said.