A popular entertainment venue that quietly opened its doors to actor Quinton Aaron and welcomed cosmic bowlers with loud music, glow pins and disco party lights will soon be closing its doors for good.
Splinters Championship Lanes in Greenwood has been sold and will close its doors for the last time Nov. 5.
Nancy Taylor, who purchased the business from Penn Classic Lanes in 1992, said after nearly 30 years, she felt it was time to sell the bowling alley.
“We had put the word out to several business associates that we would like to sell Splinters,” she said. “To our surprise, it was under contract after a few weeks.”
While she would not reveal who bought Splinters, she did say the new owner will not be using the building as a bowling center.
It was not an easy decision to sell the business, she said.
“When I came Tuesday (seniors day), there were some ladies crying,” she said. “The decision came with a heavy heart.”
“I had lots of people congratulating me. They were very understanding,” she said. “But they had tears in their eyes. Some had been bowling here for decades.”
Taylor admitted the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on her decision to sell.
“The pandemic has affected everything with people not coming out and being very guarded when they come out. They look at entertainment and ask, is the entertainment worth the risk? Most businesses across the board have been affected,” she said. “Our bottom line, like many businesses, has been altered. Our business is significantly down from where we were pre-pandemic.”
When Splinters closes, a piece of history will be gone, too, as the bowling center featured the area’s first automatic pinsetters.
The grand opening of what was known as Penn Classic Lanes was held Feb. 18, 1956, featuring the AMF pinspotter, billed as an amazing ingenious machine that sets up pins, returns the ball, clears the deck and spots new pins for the next bowler with a smooth, easy regularity.
The 16 National ABC regulation bowling lanes are designed uniquely with under-lane ball return tracks that eliminate visible ball returns and feature a single-T system, avoiding all interference on approaches, according to Mirror archives.
Splinters was also the first local bowling alley to feature cosmic bowling.
“We were the first center to offer glow in the dark lanes, glow pins and disco party lights over the lanes. We would turn up the music and turn down the lights and the excitement would begin,” Taylor said, adding the music added to birthday parties and Friday and Saturday night cosmic bowl.
Her fondest memories of Splinters, though, are the programs designed for children, Taylor said.
“It was fun to see the lanes filled with kids and the kids having fun,” she said. “This time of year, I would do the Halloween Rent-A-Lane. The kids had such an awesome time.”
Taylor said having the kids fill the place “was a wonderful time.”
“It was a lot of work to put it together, but it was really rewarding to see the kids have a great time at it,” she said.
The most famous person to bowl at Splinters was Quinton Aaron, the actor who portrayed football player Michael Oher in the 2009 movie “The Blind Side.”
“He called to see if he could come in and bowl. I opened up for him; he didn’t want anyone to know,” she said, noting he gave her an autographed picture.
“It was awesome. He was bigger than life,” she said of the 6-foot-8 actor, who visited the bowling alley a couple of times.
Community members said they will miss Splinters.
Jim Hershey, who has served as Splinters manager for 15 years, said he will miss the people.
“I feel for the bowlers,” he said. “It is my sidekick. I will miss it a lot.”
“Through the years they are not just people any more; they are your friends, family and staff. They have been a part of one third of my life, it is like losing family,” he said.
Long time bowler Debbie McClellan, president of the Tuesday Afternoon Seniors Mixed League, said the group will miss the Splinters’ atmosphere.
“Nancy has been great. We always had great times there,” she said, adding “We felt at home there.”
Taylor said it is sad to say goodbye.
“To our dedicated current and former staff; we thank you for your many years of service, friendship and dedication. We could have not been successful without you,” she said.
“To our league bowlers, we are thankful for the many many years of support, friendship, laughter and sorrow, stories, history and so much more. You will always have a place in our hearts and minds. Thanks for always being our biggest fans,” Taylor said.
“To our school groups, organizations, fundraisers, tournaments and corporate events, it has been our extreme pleasure to give you a place to teach, compete, and just have fun enjoying all this great sport has to offer,” she said.
Altoona Holiday Bowl will be the new home to many of Splinters leagues.
“We hate to see any business close,” said Holiday Bowl General Manager Scott Zimmerer. “I am glad we have the opportunity to help their leagues out so they have somewhere to go,” he added.
Taylor said she plans to remain busy and pursue opportunities in the real estate field.