Family shutters Pin & Cue
For the first time in more than 50 years, the Murphy family will not be operating any bowling centers in Great Falls.
According to Dennis Murphy, Pin & Cue, the westside establishment that opened in 1963, has ceased operations and will no longer be open.
"We are closing down," said Murphy, who owns the lanes with his mother Elsie. "It wasn't an easy decision, and it is pretty heartbreaking right now."
The lanes were home to three major leagues, the Monday Night 535 Classified, the Wednesday Night Mixed and the Friday Night Mixed leagues.
With the season coming up in the fall, bowlers in those leagues likely will try to find openings at the city's other four establishments, Little's Lanes, the Elks, Black Eagle Lanes and Aces High on Malmstrom Air Force Base.
"I have not heard where any of those leagues may go," Murphy said.
He did not elaborate on why the lanes closed, other than to say finances were a part of it, along with other factors.
"When my father (Jack) died, it crippled us," Murphy said. "We were hoping to sell the lanes to someone who would keep the bowling operation going."
Rumors surfaced earlier in the summer that the lanes had been sold and would be open in the fall under new management.
"We've had some ongoing sales talk to keep it in operation as a bowling center," Murphy said. "But, nothing has come through.
"We are also selling the liquor license," he added.
The bowling center closed its doors on June 3. Employees were let go at that time, with the understanding the lanes may reopen in the fall.
"It was a business decision which I think was very unfair by not letting the secretariesknow at the end of last year that they where closing," said Floyd Bruner, who was a league secretary and bowled in a number of leagues at Pin & Cue. "I hope that all the bowlers will find a way to keep on bowling."
Earlier this year, Murph's Party Bowl, located on the East Side of Great Falls, ended its bowling operation at the completion of the league season. Skyway Bowl, another Murphy property, closed in the 1990s.
The latest closings leave Great Falls, which once had more than seven bowling centers totaling more than 100 lanes, with just 48 lanes.
"This news was kind of expected," said Don Jordan, president of the local sanctioning organization, the Great Falls USBC. "This is going to kill us from getting any state tournaments in the future.
"Right now, all that we would qualify for are the seniors and the state mixed, if they still have that tourney."
The state association stipulates that a city must have two centers that total at least 32 lanes.
In Great Falls, Little's Lanes has 16 lanes, the Elks has 12 lanes, Black Eagle has eight lanes and the base has a 12-lane house.
State tournaments are a boon to the local economy, with six to eight straight weekends of bowlers filling hotels and frequenting local restaurants.
Jordan said he has received daily phone calls from displaced bowlers. He noted that all of the leagues at Little's have filled up and a new Wednesday late mixed league has formed.
"I have tried to get into contact with the person who ran the youth and high school leagues over at Pin & Cue to see if we can set something up," Jordan said.
In addition to the leagues at Little's, Black Eagle Lanes and the Elks each picked up new leagues.
"We picked up a new league on Saturday nights and our women's league on Thursday has expanded from three-person teams to four," said Rod Hackett, who manages the Elks Lanes.
"I said I would do anything to accommodate all the bowlers, if I can and it works into our ongoing schedule, but I'm afraid we are going to lose a lot of bowlers out of the association because of this," Hackett added.