Concordia Bowl: a local tradition

Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Members of the Monday mixed league practice and warm-up a bit before league games officially start. Concordia Bowl started in 1957 when an enterprising group of locals formed a corporation to obtain and operate a bowling center. (Charles Dunlap/The Concordian)

Concordia Bowl, 207 S. Bismark St., in Concordia has been in operation since 1957 when a small group of locals met to organize a corporation in the hopes of obtaining and operating a bowling center. Willard Stuen-kel, Norbert Flandermeyer, Walter Boeschen, Hugo Alewel, Edgar Oetting, Lambert Mehl, Norbert Schnakenberg, Glenn Laabs and Lambert Steffens were those individuals.

One of the first meetings of the group occurred Sept. 12, 1957, at the Concordia Creamery office. It was the beginning of a long process to get a bowling center for the community. A representative from American Machine and Foundry quoted $30,304 for the group for the installation of six lanes, with a ball return underneath the alleys. The initial estimated cost also included freight, spare parts and a tool kit. Automatic pin setters would have to be rented at a minimum of $800 per year.

It took five months to seek out and obtain a property where a bowling center could be built. The group became an active corporation March 17, 1958, with approval by then Secretary of State Walter H. Toberman.

A little less than 20 years later the bowling alley was bought by Charlie and Loretta Hale. They ran the bowling center until the mid 1990s. Now living in El Reno, Okla., they now own and operate the El Reno Bowl. El Reno is within the Oklahoma City-Metro area. Concordia local, and former Concordia Bowl employee, Judy Inlow visited the Hales recently.

"Loretta had my phone number and wasn't sure who it belonged to when she called," she said. "I had been searching where they were living now."

The Inlows decided to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to visit her former employer and friend.

"We had a good trip. It was nice to visit with them, and it was a surprise for them when we arrived," said Inlow.

Inlow reminisced about how Charlie would call people to see if they'd like to bowl. She said he organized leagues to interest people in the sport.

"The lanes would be filled every day of the week, and we'd have kids on Saturdays," added Inlow.

Inlow said she'd like to visit the Hales and Oklahoma again.

"I saw more of Oklahoma than I'd ever thought I'd see. El Reno is a beautiful town," she said.

Ownership changed hands several times during the intervening years after the Hales. It is now owned by Vicki and Jeff Yoder. They purchased the bowling center in 1999. Mrs. Yoder was born Vicki Renno, and grew up and attended high school in Concordia.

Mr. Yoder is originally from Pennsylvania, and is retired from the Air Force. He works for the University of Central Missouri, in Warrensburg, along with his work at Concordia Bowl.

During the Yoder's ownership of the center they have installed a new scoring system, upgraded the ball return, added new carpeting and updated the HVAC units. One upgrade, even bowlers from the Kansas City-Metro area are impressed with, is the lane ball speed detectors, according to Mr. Yoder.

Mr. Yoder said they may not have bought the bowling center had it not been for his wife being from the Concordia area.

"We've bowled all of our lives, and even when I was in the military. Everywhere we've been we've always bowled," said Mr. Yoder. "This opportunity [to buy it] presented itself, and we bought it."

It wasn't part of their long-range plans, but as Mr. Yoder said, it just sort of happened.

Recently, Yoder helped organize a bowling club for Concordia R-2 High School. The Missouri State High School Activities Association now recognizes bowling and bass fishing as emerging sports.

"I went to the superintendent, the athletic director, and the principal and presented it," said Mr. Yoder. "High school bowling has been in the state of Missouri for about four to five years now."

According to Mr. Yoder, other states have bowling as a full sport, but they all started out as a club sport in the beginning. He also said it will stay as an emerging sport for now. There aren't quite enough bowling clubs for it to be considered a full sport. There has to be more than 50 bowling clubs before MSHAA make bowling a full sport, Mr. Yoder added.

The next goal for Mr. Yoder is to offer a Bowling 2.0 course. It is a free class he's hoping to offer in November he said. He has all the materials for the class in his possession. It is for beginners, or for those who want to improve their skills. Mr. Yoder said he's seen some people who come in to bowl and have some difficulty. He'll teach them a few tips, but this class is a chance for all those interested to gain or improve bowling skills. He'll be able to teach 20 students in the Bowling 2.0 class.

Mr. Yoder prides himself on being able to keep the prices at the bowling center affordable, the programs he helps with, and the opportunity to teach youth and adults alike the sport of bowling.

Concordia Bowl has open bowling on Wednesdays from 9 a.m.-noon and 6-9 p.m., Fridays from 6-11 p.m., Saturdays from 1-10 p.m. or later, with blackout bowling beginning at 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1-8 p.m. Leagues meet on Monday and Thursday evenings and Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Two lanes are available for open bowl during the Monday Mixed League from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Visit www.concordiabowl.com, or call 660-463-2695 for pricing or other information.