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New management revamping Skyway

By PHIL GULICK

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


Skyway Lanes' new owner, Jerry Gross, issued an ultimatum to general manager Judy Allen: "Do what you've got to do to get the job done."

Allen took him seriously: "So now, I'm doin'."

What Allen is "doin' " at the south St. Petersburg center, which has a long history, is instilling a more positive attitude among her staff and customers, completing a major renovation and promising better things to come.

"It was a mess when we took over," Allen recalled, "but Jerry and his wife, Shoshana, have been just great in giving me the leeway to get things done.

"They are determined to turn this center around and satisfy every bowler who walks in the door," Allen said.

The center is one of the oldest in Pinellas County. Skyway, built in 1963, has 24 wooden lanes and Brunswick equipment.

The very day it opened, so did the skies. The weight of rain collapsed the roof onto the lanes, literally raining on the opening-night parade.

Things got a little better at Stump's Lanes, then Olympic Bowl, then Tropicana Lanes and, finally, back to Skyway Lanes, before Tom and Patsy Wedding took possession nearly two years ago.

Gross is Patsy's brother, so the family ties remain.

Allen got the job of resurrecting the center last June when Jerry and Shoshana shopped the area for a knowledgeable manager and were impressed with her credentials.

"I have been in bowling all my life," Allen said. "I was night manager at the old Crossroads Bowl, I've been a coach for a long time and I know, as a bowler myself, what customers want."

What they're getting are reconditioned original wooden lanes and decent shot; new carpeting, a new game room, revamped lounge and snack bar and a fresh paint job.

"Lynn Price, Steve Stoddard, Justin Vietch and I run the control desk, and Dave Myers is our new promotions manager," Allen said. "I'm satisfied they can get the job done."

It all hasn't been rosy.

When the center closed for repairs recently, one of the leagues deserted for greener pastures.

"But, many of our former bowlers and leagues are returning now, knowing that we're making an honest effort to improve the center," Allen said.

Customer satisfaction is reflected in the 18-team Hoinke League, a 12-team senior league, wall-to-wall Friday night parties for the St. Petersburg Junior College students and YABA youngsters who rock a full house on Saturday mornings.

Winners of the Hoinke League will take an all expenses-paid trip to Cincinnati for the regular Hoinke tournament, and all the youngsters who complete their YABA season will receive new bikes.

The Lakewood High School team, coached by Allen, practices at Skyway, and Stoddard travels with the squad.

The center plays host to the city's largest African-American league -- The National Bowlers Association's 20-team league.

The new lounge features karaoke and dart-board competition. Kids can enjoy the game machines in a new room and soon Allen will install lights and a sound system for glo-bowl.

"We had a pool table in the lounge, but it was a drag because folks were gambling and it didn't satisfy the needs of the majority of our customers, so we took it out," Allen said.

Some of the renovation is being done by 300-game shooters LeRoy Goffer and Tom Olden. They've been cutting drywall to revamp the control desk area.

"It's something we do to give back to Judy and the people who have given so much to us," Goffer said.

ALI NAILS 714: Adam Ali of Team 4 fired his first 700 series (248-714) as the Countryside Elite Scratch League completed it second week at Countryside Lanes.

Ali's squad, however, trails Team 1 and is in third place. Team 6 in second.

Billy Kitchens, Scott Meredith, Shawn Ryan and Jamie Potter are Team 1. It has a 19-2 record.

Chris Fecke, Jillian Pavlak and Ryan Helbig are Team 6. It has a 15-6 mark. Team 1 rolled the high team scratch game-series, 810-2,370.

Team 2, with Greg and David Lindberg, Brandon Kilpatrick and Brian Bright, are leading the Olympians League with a 16-6 record.

David Lindberg rolled the week's high scratch game, 198, and Bright managed a 494 scratch series.

The Tigers, with Dannye, Alissa and Jess Babineau and Kristen Cyr, are second at 15-6.

Justin Fecke stole the show in the Junior Olympians Division with a 173-473 scratch game-series to push Team 12 into first with a 17-4 mark. Teammate Stephanie Scanlon rolled the high game-series for the girls, 131-355. Chris Grube and Brittany Scanlon are the other Team 12 members.

- Phil Gulick can be reached at xerxes6@aol.com or xerxes6@Juno.com.

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