Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.
There is something majestic about the roar of the ball and the crash of the pins as you score that perfect strike. You can feel it as you step up to the line and raise the ball, sighting down the lane. You take that first step, and the weight of the ball feels perfect as you swing your arm back, lining up with the center mark. You move up and release. The ball arcs and spins perfectly. You know you've got this. It sweeps to the right, catches friction on the edge of the lane, then sweeps back towards the center. It hits perfectly between the one and three pins, sending all ten flying back into the pit with a satisfying crash. Strike!
Bowling is one of the oldest sports in the world. Archeologists have found evidence of the game in Egypt as far back as 3200 BC. Bowling balls back then weren’t as advanced as they are today. Most often, they were made of husks of grains and covered in leather, bound together with string. It was a popular sport during Roman times, then saw a resurgence during the Middle Ages.
In the 1500’s, it is noted that English King Henry VIII was an avid bowler. He considered the sport so important that he limited bowling to those of nobility or the very wealthy. Of course, this was almost impossible to enforce considering the popularity of the game.
Bowling didn’t take on its modern form until September 9, 1895. On that date, standardized rules for ten pin bowling were established by the newly formed American Bowling Congress in New York City. They changed the game to that as we know it today, establishing the 300 maximum point game.
Today, bowling remains one of the most popular sports in the country. At any given time, you can find a plethora of people out at Strike a Lot Lanes in Poteau, Oklahoma.
Growth of Strike a Lot Lanes
For many years, Poteau Food Market was one of the largest grocery stores in the region. After Walmart came to Poteau, the Poteau Food Market sold to Super H around 1995, which went out of business a couple years afterwards. A good portion of this large building remained vacant
When Super H Foods and Poteau Food Market closed around 1995, it left a vacant hole in the center of Poteau. Seeing an opportunity, a local family decided to put in a bowling alley. Ben and Judy Curtis wanted to create a family friendly entertainment venue in the heart of Poteau. The family has been deeply involved with many community building projects throughout the area for many years. Founded in 2000, the bowling alley began with 10 employees and a facility manager. It roared along for several years, attracting hundreds of people per week. However, as interest waned over the years, it was evident that change was needed.
That was when the new owners stepped in. They took over Strike-a-Lot Lanes around 2010 and began upgrading the facility.
First on the list was to repair and upgrade the old Brunswick pinsetters. In the old days, a pinsetter was one of the many people stationed at the back of the alleys. They would score each throw and then reset the pins by hand afterwards. In 1941, mechanical pinsetters were invented that streamlined the process greatly. The Brunswick pinsetters that are used at Strike-a-Lane came out in 1962.
They have been the workhorse of the bowling industry ever since they were introduced and still remain the number one choice for many bowling operators and mechanics because of their reliability and heavy-duty design. To date, there are over 100,000 Brunswick pinsetters being used across the country. Because they are purely mechanical, they can be fixed quickly and easily.
When the new owners took over, they saw that a lot of work needed to be done. As bowling enthusiasts, they have been in the industry for many years and have worked at upgrading bowling alleys all across the country. They immediately got down to work. They overhauled the pinsetters, updating them with new high quality parts such as new motors, electrical systems, belts and bearings. Not only does this add a sense of nostalgia to the entertainment center, it also keeps things operating smoothly.
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Once upgraded, a new electronic scoring system was installed. This system uses digital cameras to accurately score each throw. This also eliminated the need for the massive and often times confusing consoles that once sat at the end of the lanes.
With the bowling alley fully upgraded, the owners saw a great demand for more youth recreational activities in the area. As they are centered heavily on helping make their community a better place, and because of their strong Christian values, they wanted to create a safe place where families could gather. While bowling constituted much of that, after polling local residents, they set about establishing the only laser tag arena for miles around.
When you enter, it’s like walking into another dimension. Laser beams slice through the air as you race through the blacklit red and neon battleground, phaser in hand. Essentially, this is a high-tech version of the classic game of tag.
The entrance resembles something from the movie TRON. Once you walk through, you’re given your battle equipment; phaser guns and battle vests. Once you're suited up, the game is activated and you have but moments to find a good home base. Then the clock starts ticking. The last person standing becomes the champion—until the next game, that is.
The system used at Strike-a-Lot Lanes is one of the most advanced on the market. The phasers use actual laser beams for transmitting data; what you aim at is what you hit. In older style games, interference was always a problem. The systems used eliminate that by automatically changing channels so that game play is smooth and accurate. The vests are light-weight and comfortable, and futuristically inspired!
The arena is created using obstacles made of “ballistic-type” materials, fluorescent colors and designs that stand out under black light, and is big enough to accommodate larger crowds and parties.
Arcade Room, Food Bar, Pro Shop, and Lounge
In addition to bowling and laser tag, Strike-a-Lot Lanes also has a large arcade room and Pro Shop.
The arcade room features several different arcade games, ranging from classic games to some of the most modern on the market. There is also several pool, air-hockey, and foosball tables, as well as skee-ball, basketball, and other sports related games.
The food bar is located just outside the arcade area and offers a full menu. Seating is located between the arcade lounge and bowling alley, with the laser tag arena and pro shop towards the rear.
Strike-a-Lot’s pro shop is the areas only fully-featured pro shop, however, it is only open at certain times.
For those wanting a family-friendly night out, Strike-a-Lane is a great destination point. Still, those 21 and over may be looking for more adult-oriented entertainment. The Lounge, located next door to the Strike-a-Lot Bowling Alley is the perfect place to spend an evening unwinding. Although they are owned by the same person, they are separate entities.