With more than a half dozen bowling alleys just a short drive from his home in Avon, professional bowler Chris Loschetter has plenty of options when it’s time to practice. Most often, though, he heads to Oberlin College Lanes, where his coach is based. 
Ranked 14th on the PBA tour, Loschetter likes Oberlin because the oil patterns used on the lanes make them harder to score on, which means a more challenging practice session. While that’s great for him, it’s less fun for those who just want a fun night out and the thrill of landing a strike or two.
The good news is, whether you’re looking to join a league, catch a live band, host a cosmic bowling birthday party or seriously improve your game, you have lots of lanes to choose from.
 “We’ve seen a resurgence here locally with our sport,” says Lorain Bowling Association board member Dan Metelsky, noting that some centers are focusing on leagues, while others are investing in the fun side of the business. 
Like Loschetter, you may find that a pastime turns into a passion. “When I started bowling, I was instantly drawn to it,” he says. “I like it because it’s me against myself.”
Or, like Metelsky, you may find a new gang. “The best part about bowling is the friends I’ve met,” he says. “Bowlers, no matter what level they’re bowling at, they’re just a great group.”

Spevock’s Nautical Lanes
184 Miller Road, Avon Lake, Ohio, 440-933-7008, nauticalbowling.com
28 lanes
$4-$5 a game, $3 shoe rental

Jim and Joel Spevock grew up cleaning the ashtrays and helping out at their parents’ bowling alley in Bay Village. Their father sold Bay Lanes in 1991 and the boys were out of the business — though they still bowled for fun — until 2003, when they bought the old Aquamarine Lanes in Avon Lake.

Father Knows Best: The news that their dad was selling hit the boys hard. “I cried,” Jim says. “That was a way of life for us.” Their father offered this reassurance: “Look, we’ll get back in the business someday. Right now, you need to go to high school.” The boys went on to college, then got full-time jobs — Jim in sales and Joel in maintenance.

Ruins: The original alley, built in 1961, had been closed for close to a decade when the Spevock brothers bought it. “It was like a war zone,” Jim says. “It had been written off as an unrecoverable facility by the city of Avon Lake.”

Long Hours: After putting in full days at their jobs, Jim and Joel worked right alongside all of their contractors, even sleeping at the alley on occasion. They continued working double shifts until 2009 and 2011 (respectively), when they quit their full-time jobs.

Their niche: Cosmic bowling every Friday and Saturday night from 9:30 to midnight, birthday parties, special events and fundraisers. 

Cha Ching: In the last five years, the brothers have reinvested close to a half million dollars in the business on new scoring systems, furniture and lane restoration. What’s next? New flooring and a revamped menu.

Believers: “We’re young,” Jim says. “We are willing to invest in the future of our business and our industry. This is not a job. Not a career. This is a way of life for us.”

American Slovak Lanes
2915 Broadway, Lorain, 440-244-1293, americanslovakclub.com
12 lanes
$3 a game for adults, $2 for students, $1.50 for shoe rental

The Slovak Club has had a bowling alley since it was built in 1956, but it’s always felt hidden away. So when Rusty Groner took over management of the lanes last year, he found he could greatly increase business by doing one simple thing: Opening the door to the alley so that people headed to the club for the weekly fish fry could see it.

Speaking of Fish: The fish fry features some of the best perch around, as well as stuffed cabbage. It’s open year-round on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Goal: To increase league play, which peaked in the ’70s. 

The Game Plan: The club bought a machine that oils the lanes, reducing friction. “[Bowlers] like a condition on the lanes that they can score on,” Groner says. If you don’t give them that, they will not come and bowl in your house.”

Does it Work? “Some guys bowl good and some guys have a bad day,” Groner says. “But they will at least have a good chance to score.”

Oberlin College Lanes
180 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, Ohio, 440-775-8562, oberlin.edu
6 lanes
$2.50 a game, $1 shoe rental

Oberlin College is well-known for its artists and musicians but, on any given afternoon, you’re likely to find more than a dozen students in a place and on a team that most people in Lorain County don’t even know exist. Oberlin College opened its six-lane alley in 1963 and formed its first collegiate bowling team in 1981. The co-ed team of 15 competes against powerhouses like The Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame.

For Everyone: The lanes were private until the bowling alley in Oberlin’s commercial center burned down in 1975. “The college invited the leagues to finish their seasons, and it’s been open to the public ever since,” says Tom Reid, a lecturer at the college who started the bowling team and now coaches professional bowler Chris Loschetter. 

Town and Gown: “There were times … that a lot of folks in Lorain County thought of Oberlin college students as hippies and they thought of the locals as rednecks,” Reid says. “But I would see people at the lanes, and those categories and barriers would just fall away. I’ve seen close relationships develop between people who otherwise would have nothing to do with each other.”

The Team: “We don’t draw a lot of students to Oberlin who have a lot of bowling experience before they get here,” Reid says. “But they get excited about it and wind up joining the team.”

Old School: You’ll have to keep score yourself at College Lanes.

New Shoes: A campaign to raise money for new rental shoes generated $3,000 and 173 new pairs of shoes. “I was just stunned by how many former team members wanted to contribute,” Reid says. 

Dry: College Lanes is the only bowling alley in Lorain County without a bar, which is, as Reid says, “another obstacle to drawing league bowlers.” They do, however, attract various church groups.

Sweet Stuff: Stop by the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse, adjacent to the lanes, for a “world famous” chocolate chip cookie. “It’s a big cookie for only a dollar,” Reid says. “And I spent a lot of dollars on those.”

Lane Lesson: “Bowling is not about who can run the fastest, jump the highest or hit the hardest,” says Reid. “It’s about who can discipline themselves to learn a fine-tuned set of motor skills.”

Rebman Recreation Inc. 
5300 Oberlin Ave., Lorain, Ohio, 440-282-6761, rebmanrec.com
48 lanes
$3.50-$4.95 a game, $2.75 shoe rental

When Dominic Rebman returned home after serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he knew he wanted to run his own business. He and his father opened an eight-lane bowling alley in 1946 in downtown Lorain. Business was so good that, in 1955, they built a brand-new, 24-lane alley on Oberlin Avenue. In 1976, they added 24 more lanes. Today, the complex has a lounge, snack bar, pro shop and two party rooms and is owned and run by Dominic’s four children — Patti, Mary Lou, Rick and Rob.

Little Bowlers: “When we were young, my parents would limit us to coming once a week, plus on weekends when we had our leagues,” Patti says. “I think they knew that if we chose this life, we’d be here all the time.”

Snack Attack: Rebman’s snack bar offers all the typical bar food, but it’s the French fries that everyone loves. “People remember them from when they bowled as children,” Patti says. 

Spotless: “My father instilled that in us. If it’s clean, they will come.”

Harmony: “We all went to college and all came back to the family business,” Patti says of her siblings. “We get along very well.”

Lake Erie Lanes
18 lanes
4523 Liberty Ave., Vermilion, Ohio, 440-967-5260, lakeerielanes.com
$3-$4 a game, $3 shoe rental

George Buckosh’s father and a group of about six friends were traveling to Lorain for their weekly bowling league when they had an epiphany: “Why the heck are we driving all the way out there. Let’s put an alley in Vermilion.” It was on opening day in 1958 that 5-year-old George threw his first strike.  

All Theirs: Over the years, George and his dad bought out their partners. He married Maureen in 1988, despite the fact that she was never a good bowler. “My team was called ‘Bottoms Up,’” she says with a laugh, “because we were always in last place.”

Hungry? “We have the best hamburgers around because we patty them up fresh,” Maureen says. 

Coach George: George helped develop the high school bowling program for the state of Ohio. He also coached Vermilion High School’s bowling team for 13 years.

Like Family: “I have the same people bowling on some of the leagues for 50 years,” Maureen says. “And I have a woman who works with me who’s been here for almost 50 years. We know almost every person who walks through the door.”

An End: George just put Lake Erie Lanes up for sale. He has put off a knee replacement for three years and says it’s time. His son, Bryan, bowled for Ohio State for four years and now helps coach the team, but his full-time job as an engineer doesn’t leave time for the family business.

And a New Beginning: “I want to get this thing sold and turned over and keep it running as a bowling alley,” George says. “Our kids need to get off of Facebook and bowl more.”

Park Bar & Grille
249 Park Ave., Amherst, 440-988-2695, parkbarandgrille.com
8 lanes
$4 a game, $2.50 shoe rental

Up until this winter, the alley, which opened in 1947, was called Park Lanes Bowling & Brew. The new name reflects the ambition of owner Dan Nutt, who bought the alley four years ago. “I want this to be a destination for families,” he says. “The parents can come and enjoy the music and eat, and the entire family can have a fun night out.” Bowling will be just a part of the experience.

Lay of the Lanes: Park Bar & Grille has a full bar, including craft beer, and a kitchen that serves burgers, wraps, bar food and pizza. It offers parties, cosmic bowling, leagues and live bands on the stage every Saturday night.

The Early Entrepreneur: Dan got his start as a real-estate agent at age 18, then began flipping houses with his wife, Khristal. He bought and sold a market in Sheffield Lake, and started a carpet company and a pizzeria.

Details, Details: The bar is made out of the wood from the alley’s original approach. The backdrop to the stage is made out of wood from lanes and Dan used old bowling pins to make the one-of-a-kind lighting that hangs above the tables. 

Improvements: Every year, Dan tries to take on big projects, including updating the equipment, new TVs and, this year, replacing all the awnings on the front of the building to reflect the alley’s new name and logo.

All in the Family: “My parents have been bowlers their entire lives,” Dan says. And now his 4-year-old son Max is into the game as well. “Every time I tell him I’m going to work, he asks if he can come.” Max’s best score? 53 (with bumpers).

Grafton Bowling Center
677 Main St., Grafton, Ohio, 440-926-2189
12 lanes
$3.50 a game, $2 for shoe rental

On a typical Friday night (unless it’s high school football season), this is the place to be seen in town. “Grafton is a vibrant, small but growing town,” says Travis Keith, who handles public relations for the bowling alley. “It’s a good place to meet good people. And, really, there’s nothing else to do here but bowl.” The lanes opened in 1962 and have been owned the last 21 years by Bryant Hudak.

All Yours: The entire bowling center can be rented out for $200 an hour, a fee which includes all bowling costs. 

Dinner Time: The kitchen here has recently been upgraded. “It’s all state-of-the-art,” Keith says, and offers everything from sirloin burgers to shrimp baskets. The most popular item? Hot homemade potato chips.

The Fast Lane: League play has fallen, Keith says, because of the way our society has changed. “Everyone wants what they want and they want it now,” he says. “People don’t want the commitment of joining a league — or anything else.”

Bowling’s Future: Keith, who also serves on the board of the Lorain Bowling Association, says this is one area of the country where the sport is on the rise. Leagues have declined, but open play has picked up. “We definitely lose a few bowlers every year in the county,” he says. “But we’ve been gaining just as much or more each year.”