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A 4-decade wait: Nearly 40-year-old Superior Lanes gets all new lanes, approaches

A bowler delivers the ball on a new lane already installed while Frank Asmus, left, of Mack Lanes Services works on another portion of the Superior Lanes center in Marquette Township on Nov. 21. (Journal photo by Amy Grigas)

“For most people, they probably won’t even notice a difference.”

— Amy Manning, general manager, Superior Lanes

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MARQUETTE — It was rather like Dorothy and her assorted friends peering behind the curtain in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

People who visited Superior Lanes in Marquette Township during mid-November could still bowl to their heart’s content, even though they might’ve had to put up with some construction activity going on in the center.

But as general manager Amy Manning said, “People are fascinated with how a bowling center works.”

Mack Lanes Services craftsman Frank Asmus levels a newly installed lane at Superior Lanes in Marquette Township on Nov. 21. The four-man crew replaced the lanes six at a time, finishing their work in about 10 days. (Journal photo by Amy Grigas)

As Superior Lanes replaced its namesake 18 lanes, the underbelly of each lane was exposed, along with the pinsetting machines, as skilled craftsmen worked to insure each lane was installed correctly to meet sanctioning tolerances that are measured down to the thousandths of an inch.

Workers from Mack Lanes Services of De Pere, Wisconsin, made their second journey to Marquette County in less than four months to install new Qubica/AMF lanes on the 18 lanes at the center located between the Westwood Mall and Super One Foods along U.S. 41.

The same four craftsmen installed the new lanes and approaches after doing nearly the same duty at the 16 lane beds at River Rock Lanes in Ishpeming in mid-July.

“That certainly got our attention, as we were considering doing our lane replacement next summer,” Manning said of the work about 15 miles west. “When we contacted them and found out they could do the replacement in sections, so the whole center wouldn’t have to close down, we decided to move up the process.”

River Rock proprietor Clay Sandberg shut down his center during a slow time of the bowling year for the week or so that it took to install their SPL Select Lanes.

But these four workers, who hail from around the Midwest, worked on six lanes at a time at Superior Lanes so the center could remain open throughout.

“It’s really nice, extremely nice,” Manning said about the lanes just when they were sitting in piles waiting to be installed. “We knew we were overdue to replace these lanes; in fact, we’ve known for 10 years.

“It’s just a matter of deciding if we could afford the replacement and when we could.”

She demurred on a price while indicating somewhere in the neighborhood of six figures.

“We’ve tried some epoxy on the lanes where pieces (of the approach) shift up and down. We finally found out we could drop a 16-pound (bowling) ball to readjust them.”

Unlike River Rock, which had lanes and approaches made of wood, Superior Lanes’ lanes were made of a synthetic material when the center opened as Westwood Lanes in the early 1980s.

The new Qubica/AMF lanes are also made of a synthetic material, actually an overlay for the entire length of the lanes and approaches — the area where bowlers walk to deliver a bowling ball.

At both centers, the beginning part of lane nearest the foul line, commonly known as the “heads,” were the only parts fully replaced. That area takes the heaviest pounding when the bowling orbs weighing six to 16 pounds are regularly dropped or thrown onto that area to get the ball rolling.

Once replaced, reportedly the first 20 feet in Ishpeming and first 12 feet in Marquette, a half-inch to three-quarters-of-an-inch overlay was placed atop it. The pin decks, where the pins sit and get slammed by all their bouncing around, were also replaced at each place.

A major difference in the replacement work is that while River Rock kept its original wooden approaches, Superior replaced their synthetic ones.

A truck with the lane material stopped in Marquette on Nov. 12 with work commencing that evening, according to installation crew leader Rick Mueller of the Chicago area.

He was joined by his brother Bill Mueller, also from around Chicago, Adam Hillers of Nebraska and Frank Asmus of Wisconsin.

They worked on six lanes at a time for nearly two weeks, with work wrapping up the weekend before Thanksgiving.

“For most people, they probably won’t even notice a difference,” Manning said about casual “open” bowlers. “Those are about 80 to 85 percent of our business, open play.

“Our league bowlers will definitely notice as they’re in here every week during the fall, winter and spring.”

She also hopes that the material taken out of her center won’t just go straight to a landfill.

“We’d absolutely love to see people ‘repurpose’ these lanes,” Manning said. “People can contact us about it. Remember, these aren’t real wood, so I don’t know about the potential for, say, flooring.

“We’d just ask people to provide us with photos of their finished product.”

For those interested, call the center at 225-9320 or email to superiorentertainmentmqt@gmail.com.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.