Yokota pins down plans for new bowling alley
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — After a decade-long fight to secure funding, officials here soon will get their wish: a state-of-the-art bowling center they hope to showcase as the Pacific’s premier facility.
The blueprint calls for a complete gutting and overhaul of Building 1213, the old base exchange on Yokota’s west side, currently being used as the temporary Air Mobility Command passenger terminal. Renovations under way at the AMC’s permanent location in Building 80 are expected to be completed in late October.
Atanacio Puzon, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron’s chief of architectural design, said a local contractor should be in place by late November, with work on the new $5.3 million bowling center beginning shortly after Jan. 1. Tomodachi Lanes general manager Jeff Hamilton is targeting January 2006 for a grand opening.
“We’re going to take that footprint and totally gut the inside of the building,” Hamilton said. “Even part of the floors will come out and be replaced and they’ll do some underground work. We’ll take everything out and start from scratch — upgrade and reinstall everything. In the end, we’ll have the most updated bowling facility you can get.”
Officials said the new center will feature 26 lanes, a central control counter, snack bar area, arcade, pro shop, children’s playroom, 51 slot machines, bar and lounge, wide-screen TVs, karaoke, a multipurpose party/meeting room, a ball-drilling and storage room, new restrooms, a locker area, administration offices and a machinist room, with fresh interior finishes, furnishings and equipment. Workers are to install new heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electricity, lighting, fire-protection and communications systems, as well.
Wireless scoring consoles and wait service from the bar areas also are to be among the new amenities.
Hamilton, who’s been at Yokota for about 2½ years, helped design the new alley, which will measure 35,000 square feet. That’s more than 6,000 square feet larger than the present layout, he said.
With the extra space, Hamilton plans to stage additional special events such as glow-in-the-dark bowling, Super Bowl parties and Rock ’n Bowls employing the new video, sound and disc jockey capabilities. Hours of operation also may be expanded, along with the various youth programs offered by Tomodachi Lanes.
Hamilton is certified in every aspect of the sport’s business and operational side and has worked in bowling management for more than 25 years. He played an integral part in the new bowling centers at Fort Irwin, Calif.; Osan Air Base, South Korea; and Taegu, South Korea.
The building that currently houses Tomodachi Lanes once was used by the Japanese military to warehouse airplane parts. The bowling center was put in about 58 years ago, Hamilton said.
It’s been renovated a few times since, the last upgrade coming in 1975, when the facility’s newer half was built, stretching the house from 20 to 32 lanes.
“The age of this facility should tell you exactly why we’re moving,” Hamilton said. “It’s not as good as the community deserves. We can’t upgrade any more than we have without totally disassembling this building and starting over. We’re fighting age right now: old ceilings, pillars, HVAC systems and lanes.”
The lack of direct control over humidity and ventilation inside the bowling center has been a persistent problem at Yokota, he added. All adjustments must be made by the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron.
“Here, it’s either hot or cold all the time, and that really affects lane conditions,” Hamilton said. “Yokota has been fighting humidity for years, and it’s one of the big issues with me — because I know what it’s doing to the lanes.
“In the new center, the HVAC systems will be under house control. That’ll help immensely on the condition of the lanes and approaches. I’m just trying to give everybody a decent shot out there.”
Yokota officials began the push for a new bowling center in 1994, he added, finally opting to refurbish an existing building rather than seek additional funding for a brand new center.
The area around Building 1213 offers much more parking than the current facility. Bangkok Express, the popular Thai eatery that operates out of Tomodachi Lanes, also will make the move and begin providing delivery service from the new location.
“It’s going to be a real neat place,” Hamilton said. “Yokota has needed this for a long time. It’ll be a fun and exciting place to go.
“We need a new facility. We need all these great programs that we’re limited in doing right now because of the aging equipment. We try hard to keep this place as comfortable as possible for the community, but it’s a battle. With the new bowling center, we are going to be the pearl of the Pacific.”
The U.S. government is funding the entire project, Puzon said. Once the relocation process is finalized, the existing building will be demolished and converted into a parking lot.
Hamilton said there could be a period of two to three weeks in which base residents might not have access to the bowling alley, while workers haul the machines that set pins to the new house and complete certification requirements. That might delay the start of the winter leagues until early 2006, he said.