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END IS NEAR FOR LONGTIME BOWLING ALLEY

John Maroon remembers bowling at Beverly Lanes more than 50 years ago when it had only 16 lanes and people waited until 1 a.m. on a weekend to get in.

The center at 1340 Military Road now has 64 lanes and has been the home of the nonprofit Cerebral Palsy Recreation Group, a league of about 100 individuals with various mental and physical disabilities, for 39 years.

That will all change May 1, when the Crown of the Hill bowling league will be the last group to roll a ball down the alley.

Ed Shafer, center manager, said the alley is closing for many reasons, but a lot has to do with more restrictive alcohol and cigarette laws, and whether the company can make more money by selling the property.

A bowling alley has been located on the land at Military Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard since the 1950s, when the Trepasso family built the first facility and named it after a daughter, Beverly.

AMF owns the current alley, which was built in 1983 after the old one burned down.

Last year, an affiliate of Code, Hennessy & Simmons LLC, a Chicago-based private investment firm, bought the bowling company.

Officials of AMF, which has six other bowling centers in the area, did not return phone calls.

Now, the property, with a total assessed value of $1.14 million, is up for sale.

Zoning changes also could be in the works for that section of Military Road, just a few blocks from the site of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam's Club.

Shafer said most of the 35 leagues that meet at Beverly will go to Rapids Bowling Center, which is smaller but just a couple of miles down Niagara Falls Boulevard, or to Lockport.

"What I will miss most about the bowling business is the people," said Shafer, who has worked at various local lanes for 25 years. "They're not just acquaintences, they're friends."

Patty Smith said Maroon's league is one of her few hobbies. She learned to bowl when she joined it in her 20s and now, at 44, has a pretty good hook ball, Maroon said.

Although most of the bowlers in his league said they'd be able to find rides to Rapids, they are sad to leave the place that for some has been the only place they could go each week to get out of the house.

Starting in fall, they will meet Friday afternoons in Rapids.

"I can't get over them closing," Maroon said. "This is a bowling area."

Shafer said he has no plans but is just making the most of his few weeks left at Beverly.

"Bowling is on the rebound," Shafer said. "But not fast enough for the number of centers in the area."

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com