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Not a gutter ball yet

May 28, 2003

Deirdre Newman

As demolition day approaches for the landmark Kona Lanes bowling

alley, accusations are flying that C.J. Segerstrom & Sons did not

make enough effort to keep bowling and other entertainment uses at

the Mesa Verde Center.

Kona Lanes, a distinctive bowling facility renowned for its googie

architecture, closed May 18. The Edwards movie theater and the Ice

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Capades Chalet closed within four months of each other in 2001.

The Segerstroms, who own the shopping center, had intended to

replace all three with a Kohl's department store. But the City

Council shot that down in April after residents cried foul about the

loss of recreation and the prospect of another boxy, chain department

store being plopped onto Harbor Boulevard.

In their effort to get Kohl's approved, Segerstrom spokesman Paul

Freeman said in February the market for bowling in Costa Mesa did not

support the ailing Kona Lanes, which the Segerstroms were keeping

alive with rent concessions.

But not everyone agrees with that verdict.

Several entertainment operators say they would take over Kona

Lanes in a heartbeat if a long-term lease or the right price to buy

the land was available.

"It's a goldmine," said Joe Roussin of AMF Bowling. "I don't care

what anybody says on the Segerstrom side. I have several people that

are interested in that facility, at the right price ... [The

Segerstroms] don't even want to look at it. They're just saying it's

dead and they just want to tear it down."

Segerstrom officials declined to comment for this story.

The balls started rolling down the lanes at Kona in 1958. But a

drop in league play and Kona's outdated scoring system both

contributed to an unalterable loss in revenue.

Owner Jack Mann said he had discussed renovation options with the

Segerstroms. He estimated that he would have to invest about $3

million for a return of only $175,000 per year. He said the only

option they came up with was for a larger entertainment plan that

would involve the defunct Edwards movie theater and cost about $10

million.

Earlier this year, Freeman also alluded to rehabilitation attempts

that failed due to economics.

"We looked at something like three to four detailed, conceptual

plans for expanded theater use, expanded recreation use," Freeman

said in February. "One scenario had a rink with the alley. There

simply wasn't the financial support to commit to it. Nobody wanted to

make the long-term commitment to spread over some time the cost of a

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