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Pins set to fall on Kona Lanes

April 05, 2003

Deirdre Newman

In January 2001, the Ice Capades Chalet rink emptied for the last

time.

The Edwards movie theater screen fell dark in April 2001.

And soon, the Kona Lanes bowling alley will close, joining its

fallen comrades in the recreation graveyard at Mesa Verde Shopping

Center.

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The closing is a mutual agreement between Kona Lanes owner Jack

Mann Jr. and C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, which owns the property, since

the bowling business has been lackluster for a while, said Paul

Freeman, spokesman for the Segerstroms.

Mann confirmed that Kona Lanes was closing and said he hopes the

last pins will fall at the end of June, since league bowling ends the

first week of that month.

The future of the alley has been a hot topic among city officials

and residents since the Segerstroms announced plans to put a Kohl's

department store in the shopping center to replace Kona Lanes, the

movie theater and the ice skating rink. The Planning Commission

approved the plan, which was appealed by Mayor Karen Robinson. The

council is scheduled to discuss her appeal on Monday.

Despite the imminent demise of Kona Lanes, support remains high

for recreation in the area, some Mesa Verde residents say.

"I think the loss of recreation opportunities in the area would be

tragic," Robin Leffler said. "I think it would be really neat if some

group of investors or an investor bought [Kona Lanes] and refurbished

it. It's just got that neat retro architecture and I think it could

really attract all the people who are into the retro scene."

Kona Lanes opened its doors in 1959 and is a notable example of

Tiki googie architecture.

But the nostalgic appeal of Kona Lanes, which does not have a

computerized scoring system, was no competition for newer, sleeker

bowling alleys, such as the ones in Fountain Valley and Irvine, Kona

Lanes general manager Juanita Johnson said. She has seen business

steadily decline for the last eight years, she said.

And the market for bowling itself has shrunk substantially,

Freeman said. The Regal Bowling Center in Orange couldn't even last a

year, Freeman pointed out.

Because of the economic doldrums the alley went through, the

Segerstroms gave Mann some concessions in rent, which allowed him to

keep Kona Lanes open on a month-to-month basis.

"There was just no way to sign up for a long-term commitment

because the business just wasn't there," Freeman said. "[Kona Lanes]

would have closed before now [if not] for the rent concessions, which

are no reflection on the operators of the bowling alley. It's just a

function of the marketplace."

Refurbishing Kona Lanes would cost millions of dollars, which the

Costa Mesa bowling market can't support, Freeman added.

Robinson said she was disappointed to hear about Kona Lane's

closing.

"I think there's a tremendous amount of support in this community

for Kona Lanes," Robinson said. "I certainly don't know if the

closing of Kona will cause [Kohl's opponents] to fight any harder.

There's a pretty big fight right now."

Chris Pula, 23, who was bowling at Kona Lanes on Friday afternoon

with some family members, said he will miss the alley if it's gone.

"I like this place," the Santa Ana resident said. "It's probably

the closest bowling alley to my house. The Fountain Valley prices are

outrageous."

* DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers Costa Mesa and may be reached at (949)

574-4221 or by e-mail at deirdre.newman@latimes.com.

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