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Revamped Lewiston Event Center buzzing with activity

LEWISTON – Where in Niagara County can you play simulator golf at Pebble Beach, bowl a few frames with your family and then chill with a cold one in a revamped bar surrounded by flat-screen televisions? The Lewiston Event Center, that’s where.

Built in the 1950s, the old Frontier Lanes may have been where your grandparents, parents – or even you – bowled back in the day.

But rechristened the Lewiston Event Center three years ago, this 40,000-square-foot complex at 845 Cayuga St. has been undergoing many changes in an effort to bring it up to date – and beyond.

Lewiston natives and local businessmen Emery Simon and Harold Hibbard have spent countless hours – and hundreds of thousands of dollars, by their own reckoning – renovating and recasting the center, while remembering its roots. They still maintain 34 lanes and created clever table tops out of wood salvaged from lanes they removed to make more space.

“This place was headed for the wrecking ball and Emery and Harold said, ‘No, we can’t let this happen,’ ” said Kim Cudmore, the general manager. “But they didn’t want it to be just a bowling alley anymore – they wanted an event center. Where else around here can you be in a bowling league, pool league and (simulator) golf league – all under the same roof, like we do on Thursday nights?”

“And throw darts,” added Simon.

With improvements like removing steps to level the bowling areas – allowing those with physical challenges to access the lanes – Simon pointed out that the center is trying to “make it fun for everyone.”

Simon credited Cudmore with being “very family-oriented, very service-oriented. She works aggressively to make sure that every party here is special. We have birthday parties, fundraisers, team-building, company parties, etc.”

Cudmore said that new offerings have helped nudge the percentage of parties – once children’s domain – up to about 50 percent adults now.

That most likely has been helped by the revamped bar area, complete with 11 flat-screen televisions, a new draft beer system with 14 taps and rotating craft beers and an open-air concept, as well as a larger kitchen.

Not to mention the draw of the two, new multisport simulators, which boast 14-by-11-foot screens and offer patrons a chance to play sports like football, bocce and baseball – and even something called “Zombie Dodgeball.”

The choices are staggering because once a patron chooses a sport, say golf, for example, then he or she has to decide on a session of putting or chipping, or maybe playing one of 93 professional courses (including Pebble Beach and St. Andrew’s). Picking hockey instead? Will it be arena, pond or street? The choices include nine other sports or entertainment-related activities.

Two groups of friends were recently enjoying a round of golf on a Monday afternoon, some even having lugged their own clubs in for the session.

“I like it,” said Larry Stacey, of Lewiston. “It’s very realistic, very challenging.”

Tracy Paonessa, also of Lewiston, said she has subbed in the Thursday league and she concurred.

“I think it’s accurate to your shots,” said Paonessa, whom Cudmore pointed out is a local women’s golf champion. “I’m impressed by it and it’s a fun time … In the middle of winter, you just want to get out and swing.”

During each of the past three years, the owners have made improvements aimed at revamping the entire center.

“The first year, it was structural work,” said Cudmore. “They put on a new roof, all new ceiling tiles, and new LED lights inside and outside. The second year, they took out four bowling lanes and put in new scoring equipment. Last year, they took out two more lanes, leveled the low side, and put in the simulator room.”

Hibbard said they’ve been pleased with the reception they’ve received from the community.

The center also boasts eight arcade games, four redemption games with prizes, an air hockey table, two pool tables and dart board.

But the business has not forgotten its bowling roots. While it still has league play, its open bowling numbers are on the rise, Cudmore said.

“People come in who haven’t been here in a while and say, ‘Wow, we love what you’ve done,’ ” Cudmore said. “The guys wanted to create a safe, comfortable, clean place to go and they’ve succeeded.”

Village resident Janine Murdoch concurred. “They really opened it up,” she said, taking a break from recent league play one afternoon. “I’m pleased with everything they’ve done ... I know both owners and they are very fine gentlemen.”

Carole Stewart of Cambria, who said she’s been frequenting the spot for more than two decades, added, “They’ve made a lot of good improvements. And, maybe, this will bring people back to bowling.”

Rob Samborek, who has seen many changes in the 24 years he has worked at the center, suggested making reservations because, “Open bowling is really picking up.”

Cudmore added, “We have specials on games, drinks and food. Emery and Harold wanted to make it affordable to come here as a family.”

Cudmore also recommends making reservations for the simulators.

Call 754-8248 for more information or visit: http://www.facebook.com/LewistonEventCenter for notice of special events or entertainment, with band listings for the bar area .