Hilltop Bowling Alley to be reconstructed

Stationary cycles and yoga mats slated to replace bowling pins and lanes


Photo by Sam Farley

Construction on the Hilltop Bowling Alley began early August and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2018.


The faded black carpet adorned with miniature neon bowling balls and pins is all that remains of the familiar floor in the Hilltop Recreation Center Bowling Alley. Gone are the pins, chairs and ball return machines. A large, waving plastic sheet separates the sawdust from the Billiards Center.

By spring 2018, the sawdust will make way to stationary cycles and yoga mats. The Hilltop Bowling Alley will be no more. Instead, the space will be used for small group exercise courses like those previously held in Crest Wellness Center.

Andrew Jepsen, head of UW-Eau Claire’s Recreation and Sport Facilities department, said he is enthusiastic about the reconstruction, which seems to be coming along slowly but surely.

“Right now, four of the lanes have been removed,” Jepsen said.

After the demolition of the lanes and bowling equipment, new walls and flooring will be added. The billiards, ping pong table and air hockey table will stay put and are not part of the reconstruction.

Guided by input from the Student Senate and the Recreation Advisory Committee, the UW-Eau Claire Recreation and Sport Facilities Department initiated the reconstruction in early August.

Jepsen said student voices in the project were important.

“We really let them come up with the decision-making and movement forward with it,” Jepsen said. “They’ve been a part of it since day one.”

Built in 1969, the young bowling alley was very popular, Jepsen said. However, as it aged, the alley saw decreased usage over the years — the main reason for its removal.

The decision to transform the space into a group exercise studio stemmed from the Towers Hall renovations  set to begin this fall and the 2010-2030 Campus Master Plan.

The Housing and Residence Life administrative offices, displaced by Towers Hall construction, will find their new homes in the Crest Wellness Center where the old group exercise studio stands. Eventually, the Master Plan will transform Hilltop Center into a facility used only for recreation.

Jepsen estimates the cost of the total project will be “pretty minimal,” though he was unable to provide a number.

“When you look at it from the loss in revenue — operating in the red — we’re really going to be saving dollars at the end of this,” Jepsen said. “We want the students to utilize the space for free. There will be no charges to as to what we put into the space.”

First-year students Jennifer Roth and Madeline Ward, both undeclared, had mixed feelings about the reconstruction.

“I mean, I don’t have a car, so it’s not like I can go anywhere to bowl now if I want to,” Roth said.

However, she thinks being closer to activities like cycling and yoga might convince her to try them out.

“I’m kind of sad that there’s no longer going to be a bowling alley,” Ward said. “But at least there’s still an activity that’s going to be held there.”

Kenneth Pietrowski, a sophomore marketing student, isn’t as concerned with the reconstruction.

“I’m not too broken up about it,” Pietrowski said. He said he only remembered bowling once during his freshman year.

Although the alley is coming down, Jepsen said he and his coworkers are sensitive to the history and memories it holds for many Blugolds. Old wood from the lanes will be used to create tables, and plaques honoring 300 Club members will hang on the new walls.