Tuesday, January 25, 2022

New owners of Bigfork bowling alley aim to make it a destination center

Daily Inter Lake | January 2, 2022 12:00 AM

The bowling alley in Bigfork recently came under new ownership after it was purchased by professional bowler Rhino Page and his business partner Jeff Heinle. The two friends hope to turn Grizzly Lanes, formerly Pick’s Bowling Center, into a place that is a destination for families and aspiring bowlers alike.

Page started his extensive bowling career as a member of the Junior Team USA in 2001. He later went on to be named MVP at the 2004 Intercollegiate Bowling Championships, brought home over 20 medals for Team USA, won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2005, won six Professional Bowling Association Tour titles and was named their Rookie of the Year in 2008 — among many other top-tier accomplishments in the sport. He said he was on tour with the PBA full time for 13 years.

“Since I was 4 years old I loved bowling and wanted to be a pro and I’ve never lost sight of it," Page said. "You know, it’s one of those stories where I’d watch it on TV over and over, and bowl on my playset, I just loved bowling. Typical little boy, right? We like to throw stuff … I could throw a bowling ball as far as I wanted, and the more stuff I knocked down, the more people cheered, and I thought ‘I like this concept.’”

Page said he’s wanted his own bowling center for a long time. He moved to Spokane from Florida in 2019 to build and run a family entertainment center at the Northern Quest Casino. He said their business was on the docket to be approved just one day after Covid-19 sent nearly the entire world into lockdown, so the project was put on hold. He said he switched gears and started focusing on the other side of his business at the time, which was bowling ball manufacturing.

“You know, as much fun as that was for me, being a pro bowler and making my own bowling balls, running a bowling center and growing the sport was truly what I wanted to do. So when I saw the opportunity to move here and work with my best friend, it was even better,” Page said.

PAGE FOUND the opportunity to purchase the bowling alley in Bigfork on a visit to see his longtime friend Jeff Heinle in Montana. He also took some time to visit one of his bowling students in Whitefish, whose father is a Realtor and told him the bowling alley was for sale. Page said the bowling alley in Bigfork is a great find because it is fairly new construction — built in 2008. This is compared to other bowling alleys across the country that were mostly built across the 1960s and '70s and require much more time and money for renovation.

There is some revamping the co-owners would like to do at Grizzly Lanes, Heinle said particularly with the building’s bar and kitchen. He has more than 10 years of experience managing bars and restaurants for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas. He said he has helped open several new bar and restaurant venues and is looking forward to developing a more extensive menu at Grizzly Lanes.

“We’d like to develop it more into a restaurant-type atmosphere, where you have really craveable food," Heinle said. "We have a lot of traffic coming by the bowling alley here, so we’d like to make it to where if you roll by with your friends, your family … you can come in and have a nice meal and not have it just be your typical bowling alley.”

Heinle said they would also like to expand their bar menu to include local craft beer. They want to create a space that is more than a bowling destination. Page said this is important to them because there’s a lack of places for young people to hang out in the area. For instance, he said they are working to make their arcade bigger and better.

Page said he loves bowling because it is a sport that is accessible to most everybody and he wants to bring more of those opportunities to Grizzly Lanes. A pro shop for bowlers, which he said is hard to find in this part of the country, is planned.

“There’s no place you can go to buy your ball, bag and shoes. You have to order it, and then set an appointment with someone for your ball," Page said. "So next summer we’re going to build a pro shop. We’re just trying to make this place more of a destination for people in our area. I was surprised by how many people go all the way to Spokane just to go to their pro shop.”

HEINLE SAID being a family entertainment center is going to be a big part of Grizzly Lanes, but he is excited about what Page will bring to the center for bowlers across Northwest Montana.

“Bringing a professional bowler of this caliber to any area I think is just huge," Heinle said. "The opportunities for kids to learn from somebody who has really gone from being a youth bowler to a professional bowler, winning major tournaments … just the opportunities for someone to learn from somebody like him, particularly in this region is really unreal. That’s why it was easy for me to partner up with him because his connections are incredible, and what he’s able to build for himself during his career. That’s why I think it would mean a lot to this area, because when he says he wants to make it a premier bowling destination, he really knows what that means.”

Grizzly Lanes offers Griz Glow Cosmic Bowling every Friday and Saturday night, and a youth bowling league will start in January. Middle and high schoolers will practice on Fridays and kids 12 and under will practice on Saturdays.

Heinle said they are working on building out a simple tournament schedule as well for the winter that will get more extensive for their summer season. Anyone interested in learning more about programs and events at Grizzly Lanes can reach them by calling 406-837-2233.

Reporter Taylor Inman may be reached at tinman@dailyinterlake.com.

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