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    Largo, Skyway lanes center(s) of attention


    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001

    Largo Lanes co-owner Cotton Smith dispelled some of the fog surrounding the sale of his center.

    And, Skyway Lanes co-owner Shoshana Gross killed the rumored closing of her center.

    "For various reasons, the sale to the group wanting to buy our center failed to close," Smith said of Largo Lanes. "We were negotiating a deal that we hoped to consummate in 60 days, but that was not to be because of various reasons."

    The sale was supposed to close April 23.

    "Because of that, the center will be torn down and put to a new commercial use," Smith said. "The value of the land is greater as vacant land than with a bowling center on it."

    Smith clouded the picture more, however, by saying, "I am in active negotiations on this. This is a private transaction at a sensitive junction, and these are not public affairs."

    He wouldn't reveal the name of the first prospective buyer nor the party in the negotiations. Phone calls to possible buyers were not returned.

    As for league bowlers who found the center locked up last week, Smith said, "Because of the timing of the leagues and because we hoped to consummate the deal within 60 days, we decided not to run our summer leagues. Obviously, they would run only a month and a half before stopping.

    "Because all we would have then is open bowling and, because May is the slowest month in the business, we decided to close the doors. We would like to thank all the people who have bowled at Largo Lanes and those who worked for us over the years." The demise of Largo Lanes will leave Pinellas County with 14 centers. Shore Lanes on U.S. 19 South was demolished in 1998.

    The Smiths are long-time county center owners. Helen and Bob Smith (now deceased) own Dunedin Lanes, and their daughter, Tracy, owns Tarpon Lanes in Tarpon Springs. Cotton and Patti Smith have owned Largo Lanes since 1978.

    Skyway Lanes co-owners Jerry and Shoshana Gross battled rumors after they changed hours and left bowlers staring at closed doors.

    "We are not bankrupt, we're not going out of business and we're open, although with different hours," Shoshana said.

    However, she said they were looking for someone to lease with an option to buy or would sell the center to the highest bidder. Skyway is closed until 1 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and open at 9 a.m. on other days.

    Socia Enterprises of Lakeland has expressed interest in the center. The group owns Lakeland's Orange Bowl and last year bought Countryside Lanes in Clearwater.

    WHEELCHAIRS IN ACTION: The Florida Wheelchair Bowling Association's state tournament hits the boards this weekend at Seminole Lanes with three division championships on the line.

    Competition in A and B handicap and scratch divisions begins at noon today with the doubles. Duos will roll three qualifying games with a cut to the top 16, then single-elimination match-play to determine the final two pairs.

    Saturday and Sunday's singles competition begins at noon in all divisions. Players will have two, three-game sets, then rolloffs to determine the top five finalist in each division. Winners earn cash and trophies. Admission is free.

    'CANES ON TOP: Palm Harbor University High's players continue to dominate the standings in the Upper Pinellas County High School League.

    Three weeks remain on the schedule.

    The Hurricanes' No. 1 teams hold leads in the girls scratch and boys Division I scratch competition. Their No. 2 squad heads the boys Division II scratch, and No. 3 leads the handicap standings.

    East Lake prevents total domination by topping the girls handicap division. Countryside No. 1 moved into the Division I boys handicap lead.

    The Palm Harbor boys team is comprised of Josh Guinand, Jon Wilson, Chris Fitzgibbon, Andrew Carr, Dan Tatem, Keith Gaputis, Dan Tatem, Chris Fecke, Ryan Ohr and Kevin Hindin. The girls squad is Teresa Scanlon, Kelly Fecke, Kindal Graham and Abby Mello.

    SUNCOAST ELECTIONS: The Suncoast Association inducted five members into its hall of fame and re-elected six directors.

    The inductees were Jack Cuthbert, Loyal Shuman, James Ellis, Joe LaVoy and Billy Finocchi. The directors are Howard Asher, Herb Craine Sr., Terry McLendon, Tom Muratore, Bruce Nash and Charlie Smith.

    CWBA MEETING: The Clearwater Women's Association will have its annual membership meeting 2 p.m. Sunday at AMF Clearwater Lanes.

    The election of president, vice-president and eight board members is on the agenda, along with a vote to reduce the number of board members.

    Joann Bates is president. All members are invited.

    AROUND THE LANES: Lisa Heym became the 22nd woman to roll a 300 game in Pinellas County with her 300-707 at Seminole Lanes. ... At Dunedin Lanes, Jodi Kroeger logged her second 300 (629) in less than six months and Kerry Fradkin recorded a 300-735.

    - Phil Gulick can be reached at or

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