JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
League bowlers lined up Wednesday at Waialae Bowl in Kahala. The bowling alley will be closing its doors this month, leaving many area bowlers of all ages skeptical about where to go to enjoy the sport.
Waialae Bowl closing, Lease expires Feb. 28
Sky-high costs of rent and daily operations are ending the 50-year run of Waialae Bowl as a place to play the game and hang out with friends, especially for old-timers. It will close Feb. 28.
The lease for Century Development Inc. (doing business as Waialae Bowl) also expires on Feb. 28. But Frank Yamamoto, principal partner of Century, said he would not want to renew the lease from owner Kamehameha Schools anyway.
He pays $275,000 a year in rent and would have to pay more for the 60,000-square-foot area as well as higher property taxes if he continued to operate, he added.
Yamamoto, who has been in charge of Waialae Bowl's operations since Century built it in 1958, said the cost of the rent, electricity, employees and other expenses is "astronomical."
And he cannot pass the costs on to his customers, most of them seniors, who could not afford it. Bowlers already pay $3.35 per game, versus the 25 cents he used to charge when it first opened - that was before Kahala Mall was developed in the early 1970s, he said.
In spite of bowling's waning popularity, "We've been successful during our 50-year operation. It's not because we're going broke; we're not closing because of insolvency," Yamamoto added.
Because Century did not want to invest any more money in the building, Waialae has fallen into disrepair over the years, with buckets strewn about to catch roof leaks, and the walls and floors badly marred with wear and tear. But that has not deterred its customers.
Herb Oda, who has been bowling at Waialae for 17 years, summed up the feelings of most of the seniors who have been bowling there for decades: "We don't have any place to go. Most of the ladies don't drive" and do not want to go all the way to Aiea to bowl.
Hitoshi Kajioka, 84, said bowling has kept him limber throughout his life. A member of the Kaimuki Mixed Trio league, he has gone to Waialae for 50 years. Many members will be forced to give up the game, which is the only exercise they get, and "we're having fun," Kajioka added.
"And when you don't exercise, your legs are not going to work and you fall apart," Oda said. And they will also miss going to McDonald's next door to "talk story - it's a shame!"
Marian Oshiro, who has bowled at Waialae for some 20 years, plans to carpool with friends to Aiea. But "we are going to miss everybody" who quits the game, she said.
Sharon Souza, a teacher at Aina Haina Elementary School, takes her special-education class there to practice for
Special Olympics. They take the city bus to the bowling alley, but Aiea would be too far away and involves transfers.
"We're devastated. Waialae Bowl has been extremely accommodating, and it's gonna be gone," she said.
Student Chris Wan said of bowling, "It's fun. It's challenging. ... I like wearing special red shoes."
George Higashide, president of two leagues, said his members are all in favor of the state opening an alley for the public. He used to hang out at the Kalihi Bowl until it closed, then at the Bowl-a-Drome in Moiliili till that shut down.
Yamamoto said once Waialae closes there will be only Aiea Bowl, the Leeward Bowl in Pearl City and Pali Lanes in Kailua for the public. Several alleys on military bases are open to the public but require passes and sponsorship.