SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Upvalley bowlers, fear not - you won't have to go far to get a game in much longer.
Under the direction and ownership of resident Mark Reece, a bowling alley will open June 1 in the Bedford Ballroom underneath Venga Venga at the top of the Snowmass Village Mall, housing eight full-size lanes, flat-screen televisions, plush couches and a full kitchen and bar.
"This has been a passion of mine for a long time," said Reece, who grew up as a kid in bowling alleys before starting a
38-team fraternity league in college. "The hardest part has been keeping it a secret for two and a half years while putting everything together."
For years, Reece, currently a bartender at Slice in Base Village, has been traveling back and forth between the Roaring Fork Valley and Naples, Fla., searching for the perfect spot to pursue his lifelong dream. After giving up his search in Naples due to an overabundance of bowling alleys, he finally found an ideal spot in the Village.
"I searched the entire area high and low, from Aspen to Highlands, to Buttermilk and the (Aspen Business Center) and never found a place that could cater to such a large project," he said. "By pure luck, discovering the Bedford Ballroom in Snowmass has been a blessing in disguise, because this is where it really needs to be."
"I can't tell you how many people have come to me with plans to build a bowling alley in Aspen," said Ruth Kruger, Reece's real estate agent. "The fact is, there isn't a place in Aspen that could accommodate a bowling alley and with Reece's dedication and persistence, we were able to find an ideal location in Snowmass, which in my opinion will be the best use of space for both the building and the community."
One of the early buildings in Snowmass, the Timbermill Building was constructed in the 1960s and has since served a multitude of purposes, according to longtime Snowmass architect Gus Gustafson. In the building's early years, the downstairs level was home to the Opticon movie theater and later accommodated a community theater group.
In 1988, the building was remodeled to host a variety of functions, including the ticket pavilion and ski school as well as restaurants, sport shops and the celebratory Bartenders Ball, the annual fundraiser often considered the unofficial end to the Aspen ski season and one of the most extravagant black-tie parties of the year.
Venga Venga and Aspen Sports now call the upper part of the building home, but for the past couple of years, the ballroom space has served little purpose, if only as a meeting place for conference operations from time to time.
"Special requirements are needed for a bowling alley," said Gustafson, of Z Group Architects, designers for the project. "There aren't many spaces sitting around unused, so physically this building makes perfect sense - not only as an amenity that supports the town as a family resort, but one that provides young people with an additional recreational outlet."
With prior work experience in the Bedford Ballroom, access to the site's original drawings and a resume spanning more than 100 projects within the town of Snowmass, it made sense for Gustafson and his team at Z Group to take on the job as lead architects for the town's first-ever bowling alley.
"As of now we are still in the planning stage," Gustafson said. "I am working with (Reece) and the town to go through some of the preliminary steps to review the lease and accommodate the physical and aesthetic requirements of a bowling alley function."
Reece anticipates an operation that plays off the affluent styles of Lucky Strike, a national bowling chain whose locations also have bars and restaurants in-house."I want this place to be a multifaceted hub of entertainment," Reece said. "In Snowmass, there's a lot of downtime, especially in the offseasons. Having a bowling alley will not only save people time from driving or taking a bus downvalley, but it will create time for families and friends to spend doing something fun together."
From youth bowling leagues, to movies like "The Big Lebowski" playing on TVs, to football games, to Aspen Brewing Co. beer on tap and a full restaurant offering dishes you wouldn't expect to find at a bowling alley, Reece intends to develop a place where people of all ages can come and have a good time, even if they decide not to put on the shoes and underhand a ball down one of the eight regulation-sized lanes.
"Having an additional family amenity like this will be a wonderful complement to the town in both the summer and the winter," said Town Manager Russ Forrest, who, like several other residents, anticipates a place where people of all ages can come and enjoy a safe, fun time.
But until then, the rest of us will have to sit patiently and wait, particularly to hear the name of the Valley's newest bowling alley - a secret Reece plans to keep until the doors open on June 1.
"When you have something that is so outside the norm, it really takes the right combination of people to make it happen," Kruger said. "For someone like (Reece) to come in who not only knows the business, but knows how to run a kitchen and has an extreme passion to see it through, I have no doubt in my mind it will be great."