MOORE — A concrete slab encircled by a 10-foot tall metal fence is all that is left of the AMF Moore Lanes bowling center.
Looking over the site from the parking lot just off the Interstate 35 service road, former Moore Lanes general manager Jon Fisher recalls how the May 20 tornado peeled off the building's metal roof like a sardine can. He points out where his office and the bowling lanes once stood.
“I won't cry — I'm too much of a macho guy, but it's a sad feeling,” Fisher said, noting that other businesses in the area have reopened or are in the process of rebuilding.
Construction is progressing at the nearby Tinker Federal Credit Union, which also was leveled in the storm. The tornado-damaged adjacent post office reopened this week.
While other surrounding businesses have reopened or are rebuilding after the May 20 tornado, bowlers and former bowling center employees have learned that AMF Moore Lanes will not be rebuilt. The bowling center had been open in Moore since the 1970s.
Blow to employees
It's a blow for former Moore Lanes employee Katie Stubblefield, who worked at the bowling center before the tornado. Her older brother and father had also worked there.
“To find out that it was gone for good was really sad for our family,” said Stubblefield. “A lot of my friends worked there — it's where I met my boyfriend of two years. There were a lot of memories there,” said Stubblefield, who began bowling at age 3.
Bowlmor AMF, which owned AMF Moore Lanes, sold the land where the bowling center once stood just northeast of Moore Warren Theatre in November for $1.2 million to a group of investors. The deed to the property stipulates that a bowling alley cannot be rebuilt on the land for at least 20 years after the sale — a common measure Bowlmor AMF takes to prevent creating new competition in the market.
Donald Kyte, manager for Apex Properties II LLC, which purchased the Moore Lanes property, said the investors would like to see the land — a valuable parcel given its location next to the popular Warren Theatre — redeveloped for some type of commercial use.
Bowlmor AMF declined to comment on the closure of Moore Lanes and would confirm only that the property had been sold.
The May 20 tornado destroyed the Moore Lanes site at a time of tumult for Bowlmor AMF. New York-based Bowlmor and Virginia-based AMF Bowling Worldwide Inc. were in the process of merging last spring. The merger was completed in July to create the largest operator of bowling centers in the world.