Evart couple to reopen bowling alley

Facility will include large event venue

EVART — Nearly five years after the Twin Oaks Bowling Center and Lounge in Evart closed its doors, residents of the city can look forward to once again having another recreational activity in town.

Eric Schmidt, a local businessman and president of the Evart Chamber of Commerce, along with his wife have purchased the building and are working on renovations of the facility.

“We bought the building for a business that my daughters run,” Schmidt said. “It was cheaper for us to buy that building than to build a new one and it came with a bowling alley."

“We debated whether we wanted to open it up to the public or just fix it up for private parties,” he added. “We decided to open it back up. It is going to be a long process. Everyone wants to know when it is going to open. We can’t give a date, but you will know when it opens.”

After being closed for nearly five years, the facility was in bad condition, he said. It has required a lot of cleaning up and fixing things.

“Literally, there were things duct taped together when we bought it,” Schmidt said. “We have kind of started from scratch, building it back up so we can do things the right way. We had Brunswick come and turn the lanes on. We didn’t want to turn them on until they checked them out. Everything was grimy and dirty, so we went through with a fine-tooth comb and got everyone of them working.”

Although they are not quite ready to open bowling to the public, they are renting the lanes out to private parties. Eagle Village brought in a group of kids to bowl, and the lanes were opened for students to come in after prom, Schmidt said.

“We do allow private bowling,” he said. “I tell people to just give me $25 an hour for the cost of my staff and come in and bowl. I want to know things are going to work before I open it up to the public.”

Schmidt added that they plan to eventually offer the lanes for league bowling, but they want to make sure they are top-notch first.

In addition to bowling, the facility will include a restaurant and bar, an arcade area and a large event venue.

Before that can happen, however, there is still much to be done, Schmidt said.

They are working on getting liquor and food service licensure and renovating the kitchen as well as cleaning and fixing up the arcade area.

“The kitchen needs all new equipment, and we have a heating and cooling company coming in because none of the coolers are working,” he said. “We called Coke to get their systems in and we need to get the beer systems in. It is going to be a long process. One step at a time.”

The property includes an 11,000 square foot building, which the previous owner planned to use as a fitness center, Schmidt said, but he never did anything with it.

“It is a big pole barn that is insulated, so we will be turning that into a wedding venue and concert hall,” he said. “Construction won’t start on that until May, because Gerber Construction has been hired to do it and that is their first eligibility.”

Plans for the event venue include a stage, a concert sound system, two bar areas and restrooms. An upper level with balcony seating is also planned.

Schmidt said he hopes his connections in the music business will enable them to get some good concerts scheduled.

“I think the venue will be a nice addition to the city,” he said. “I really want to incorporate other organizations. I want to get the schools involved to have events there. It won’t just be for concerts and weddings.”

He said they are looking at possible Mixed Martial Arts fights, gun and knife shows, flea markets and other such events.

“We really have to sit down with the architects and engineers to make sure we don’t make any mistakes in developing and designing that part of it,” he said. “Everything depends on contractor schedules and supply chains.” 

The Schmidts have named the facility AJ’s Entertainment after grandson Ayden John. The bowling alley will be Fin’s Pins Bowling after granddaughter Finley, and the arcade will be Ashtyn’s Arcade after grandson Ashtyn.

“I know that people are excited about it and that is good,” Schmidt said. “That’s what I like to see. We are taking it one step at a time, getting one thing done and then moving forward. Everything right now is red tape, getting the paperwork done that we have to go through, and working with contractors.”

If all goes well, the bowling alley, restaurant and bar, and the arcade will be ready to open in spring of 2022, with construction on the event venue starting in May, he said.