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Church makes bowling alley a family center

You'll still be able to bowl at Celebration Ministries' new facility, but there will also be a coffee bar and activities for youths.

By ANGELA MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Celebration Ministries Church has found one more way to get involved in its community.

The church recently signed a one-year lease for the former Ethel's bowling alley and lounge. Also, an individual who is a member of Celebration Church donated money for a down payment to buy the building. Michael Sloan, pastor, said he has faith that in the next year God will provide the remaining $333,000 that it will take to purchase the facility. They are hoping to open within the next couple of months, after the renovation is completed.

"The main reason for purchasing the place is to be used as a teen/family center, but we are actively pursuing purchasing the liquor license, not to be used, but to tie it up," Sloan said. "An added benefit of (having) one less bar in town."

The building, approximately 3,000 square feet, is on 54th Avenue and 12th Street, across from Zephyrhills High School. The eight-lane bowling alley was recently remodeled by the previous owner. However, the building's exterior and the lounge area still are being remodeled. Local businesses, such as a roofing company and sign company, have volunteered their services.

On May 5, congregation members volunteered their time working on the large renovation project, although Sloan said they still need help with carpeting and painting.

"The transformed bowling alley and lounge will be open to anyone in the community who desires a Christian atmosphere that is smoke- and alcohol-free," said David Pickerall, youth pastor.

The bowling lane has lighted tracks, neon carpeting and black lights for a cosmic effect. Sloan said seniors in a local mobile home park already have inquired about having a bowling league there in the mornings. The bowling area has a dance floor, disc jockey booth with sound system and a small refreshment area to serve drinks.

The separate lounge area has a half-circle shaped, red-brick bar area that will be used as a coffee and espresso bar. The game area will have arcade games, pool and Foosball tables. There is a large screen television where Pickerall said Christian movies will be played and a stage area where youths can preform drama, and Christian concerts can be held. Pickerall said he wants youths to be involved in planning the activities.

Linsey Sloan, 14, attends the church's Christian school and is involved in the youth program.

"We are very excited that we will have somewhere to go," she said. "There is nothing to do except school activities or to go into Tampa."

As well as being available to anyone wanting to bowl, the facility will be used for local organizations or church groups to rent for events. Pickerall and Sloan are trying to figure out a low-cost admission price or some form of membership program to pay for youth activities. Pickerall said event nights will be planned throughout the months exclusively for young adults or middle school and high school kids. The church will hire staff to help run the facility six days a week.

There also are plans for an after-school tutoring program for the next academic year. Nancy Lester is a retired school teacher who has a small fund-raising business. She recently called the church offering to help raise money, and she also wants to volunteer her time for the tutoring program.

"I like the idea that it is for any kids," Lester said. "It is good to have a place where kids can come and ask questions."

Lester also said she thought the new facility would be a good venue for children that don't have an interest in sporting activities.

Bob Barns, a resident of Zephyrhills for 10 years, said he would help the church any way he can because he is "deeply interested in the project." "Too many of us old folks don't get involved in helping our young people," said Barns, 68. Tammy Kay Ryman attends the Celebration Ministries Church and has two sons, Chad, 18 and Christian, 16, who go to Zephyrhills High School. Chad is graduating this year and plans to join the Marine Corps, Ryman said, but Christian -- who likes to bowl -- is very excited about the new center.

"I love the idea," Tammy Kay Ryman said. "Kids have to make up their own fun, which isn't always a good thing."

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