Leaving the Lanes: Cardinal Lanes in Ball State’s Student Center closed until further notice

 Bowling lanes sit unused March 16 at Cardinal Lanes bowling alley in the basement of the Student Center. The alley formerly had 16 lanes, but was downsized to eight. Rylan Capper, DN
Bowling lanes sit unused March 16 at Cardinal Lanes bowling alley in the basement of the Student Center. The alley formerly had 16 lanes, but was downsized to eight. Rylan Capper, DN

Cardinal Lanes has been a top attraction at Ball State’s L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Walk into there at any given time and chances are, you will find a group of students playing billiards or bowling at the lanes. It has been a staple of Ball State events like Late Nite, University Program Board and team bonding for student groups and clubs. 

However, Travis Peters, associate director of the Student Center, said the attraction has been experiencing some technical difficulties. This has led to many obstacles in allowing it to stay open for students and faculty. About four years ago, the mechanic Peters and his staff had hired for several years died. On top of that, Peters said, the equipment used at the lanes was getting old.

“[The equipment] is original to the facility, from the 1970s, so finding parts and then having someone repair it is becoming very difficult for us,” Peters said.

Peters and Maureen Baker, director of the Student Center, had discussed possible repair alternatives and what that space could be used for if Cardinal Lanes were permanently closed. He said they agreed on the temporary closing of the attraction midway through the fall 2021 semester, and it officially closed in December during finals week. They are unsure when it will open again. 

In addition to repair difficulties, Peters said, COVID-19 has taken a toll on the operation of Cardinal Lanes. 

“About 100,000 visits [per year] were recorded by door counters pre-COVID of the facility, but once COVID hit, that number obviously took a pretty significant hit,” Peters said. “Last year [post-COVID], we were a little over 60,000 to the number of visits in that space.”

Kristin McKeen, junior elementary education major, was a student employee for Cardinal Lanes October 2020 through September 2021. She said she expected the lanes to close because most of the time she was there, only two or three lanes would be working out of eight. 

“I think it is best that the Student Center decided to close the lanes temporarily because there were so many complaints from customers,” McKeen said. “Low staffing and technical difficulties were the main causes of why we could not run a majority of the lanes.” 

Wednesday Cunnington, Cardinal Lanes customer and 2005 Ball State general studies alumna, said her experiences with Cardinal Lanes are memory-filled. She hosted a few birthday parties and her best friend’s annual family reunion three times at the lanes in the early 2000s. 

Cunnington said it also felt the most safe compared to other local bowling alleys in the area.

“I chose Cardinal Lanes over the others because of the size. It’s perfect for parties and friendly get-togethers,” Cunnington said via email. “Not to put the other [bowling alleys] down, but it just felt safer, especially for a younger crowd and for those bringing young children.”

Cunnington also said she is sad to know Cardinal Lanes is temporarily closed because her son, Matthew Williams, now 31, enjoyed the attraction when he was younger. Also, when Cunnington was a Ball State student, she said she loved going with her friends.  

“I’m sad that it’s closed because as a former BSU student, it was a place my friends and I could go to that was close — we didn’t have to go off campus to bowl,” Cunnington said. “It was clean and never got rowdy. It’s something different for students, besides a bar or restaurant to hang out at.”

Contact Jamie Strouts with comments at jdstrouts@bsu.edu.


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