Hundreds of Southland league bowlers were left homeless Monday when the doors abruptly were closed at Brunswick Zone XL in Homewood.
Representatives from Bowlmor AMF Corp. arrived at the lanes in late morning and told employees the facility was shutting down for renovations. They allowed an afternoon Senior League already in progress to finish its games before workers began dismantling the 42 lanes, pinsetters and equipment from the bar, according to pro shop owner Shaun Quinn.
“When they told the seniors they had to vacate the premises after they were done bowling and when they had 100 guys in here unzipping all of the screws on the lanes, that’s when it hit hard,” Quinn said.
“It hurts your soul. I can cry. I’ve been here for seven years, and it’s rough. To have them come here on Monday at 12 (noon) and tell you at 2 o’clock you’re done, with no paperwork, no warnings … it’s tough.”
Quinn was given a 5 p.m. Friday deadline to move his Rippin’ The Rack business out of the building. He is relocating to Bluebird Lanes in Chicago.
A spokesperson for AMF, which in September bought 85 bowling centers operating under the Brunswick banner, said the company had no comment.
Quinn, meanwhile, doubts an actual renovation is taking place.
“Everything that’s in here that they own they’re ripping out,” Quinn said. “They’re telling (us) that they’re remodeling the center and they’re going to reopen in May or June. But they aren’t remodeling. They’re pulling out.”
There are 13 certified leagues at Brunswick Zone XL, according to a USBC spokesman. The building also houses a Saturday morning youth league, and is host for Hillcrest’s boys and girls bowling teams.
The timing of the action is curious. When Brunswick closed one of its facilities in Carol Stream in 2012, league bowlers were given three months to find another house.
Rex Alexander, who coaches in a youth program at the center and bowled in the Monday District 205 Teachers League, was one of the first to get an unpleasant surprise Monday when he showed up at 2 p.m. for the 4 p.m. start.
“I came early to practice,” he said. “When I got to the door I don’t know if it was a representative of Bowlmor or security, but they said there was no bowling, they were having an event. I actually called (Quinn) and said, ‘What’s going on? What kind of an event? Why didn’t they call us earlier?’ That’s when I found out.
“I’m furious about it. Not at the fact it happened, but because of the way it happened. You’re doing it in the middle of the season. If you had planned on renovation, why would you take 1,000 bowlers and say, ‘OK this is it,’ right in the middle of the season, when you could let them finish and do the renovations over the summer.
“That’s why I don’t think they are going to renovate. I think it’s done. The timing — I don’t like that at all.”
Markus Simmons, of Hazel Crest, a sophomore at South Suburban College, is one of the league and event coordinators at Brunswick Zone XL. He said the facility was operating in normal fashion right up until he showed up for work Monday.
“Sunday night I came in and everything was running smoothly,” he said. “We were finishing up our Beat the Champs cards and planning stuff. Nothing seemed wrong.
“I came in on Monday on time and they said they didn’t need me to work anymore, the center was closing and pretty much everybody could apply for unemployment. I grew up in this bowling center. I threw my first bowling bowl in a Brunswick Bowl junior league here. It breaks my heart.”