BROOKINGS – The old-style, historic Brookings landmark that was Prairie Lanes is no more.
Following closure in May 2020 and the new ownership of M.G. Oil, headquartered in Rapid City, came a total gutting, a major rebuilding from floor to ceiling, and a new general manager.
The new state-of-the-art lanes opened simply as The Lanes.
“When I came in in July, this was all concrete,” said General Manager Tony Brallier, pointing out the newly carpeted floor and the other major amenities of the new facility. “It was pretty much demolished by mid-summer. It was all cement and plywood, so they redid everything.”
Then The Lanes “officially” opened in late December 2020: 26 lanes, with lanes 17 through 26 featuring interactive bowling with special lighting effects called Brunswick Spark.
“Brunswick made the balls, the lanes, the shoes,” Brallier explained. “They’re totally normal lanes until (Spark). You would never know until we turn down the lights and darken it and there are videos on the floor.”
Brunswick promotes Spark as “the industry’s first immersive, interactive scoring experience. Spark surrounds the bowler in a mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind experience as it delivers the latest technology and entertainment trends to your lanes.”
Add to the 26 lanes a watering hole-eatery called Strikers Bar & Grill; three video lottery areas with a total of 24 machines; and an arcade area for the kids.
More than just bowling
“We try to have as many people here as we can,” Brallier, who is new to the business of managing a bowling alley, said. He has plans for making The Lanes a go-to destination in Brookings. And that means more than just bowling.
Leagues have again started up and go just about every weeknight.
Open bowling is 11 a.m. to midnight every day, even when leagues are going. The whole bowling alley can be rented for parties of all sorts.
“We actually have proms,” the manager said. “We have three proms we’re ready to book now. They’ll go from about midnight to 4 a.m.
“They’ll do some Spark (bowling), do some regular (bowling). We’re either going to make pizzas or do something for them. We’re not sure yet. This is our first time doing it, but we’ll figure it out.”
Brallier has been in Brookings since 1987. He attended South Dakota State University, majoring in electronics technology. He graduated in 1991 and spent 29 years at Daktronics, leaving in 2020.
“So I got let go there and then I decided to start trying to find something exciting, challenging and rewarding. I had a few different job opportunities, but then all of a sudden this came up.”
And he ran with it. The project came to fruition and The Lanes was literally ready to roll.
“We got things going in November. Let’s get ready to open up in December,” Brallier said. “We had a couple little private parties to let teams try things out.” There was, however, no “grand opening.”
“The holidays were full. It was incredible. It was amazing. We were open Christmas Day, New Year’s Day. We had people here. It was great.”
Now two months into the new year and with the pandemic still affecting daily lives, Brallier sees The Lanes as a place for families “to get together, have some good food and bowl.”
One improvement Brallier is proud of is the installation of a wheelchair lift; so all the lanes are now handicapped accessible. That helps him achieve one of his goals with The Lanes: to get people who have never bowled to come in and bowl.
“We have these four ramps that you can push the balls down. They can bowl just like anybody else,” he said.
For anyone looking for a bite to eat, food is served from about 11 a.m. to midnight.
“We have chislic, sandwiches, phillies, burgers. We do make our own pizzas,” Brallier said.
Facing the pandemic
“I’m not a bowler, honestly, not for much of my lifetime,” Brallier said, explaining how he came to be general manager of The Lanes. “But I’ve been around entertainment. My dad had a rollerskating rink in Iowa for 40 years. So I could maybe manage a bowling alley or a casino.
“I interviewed with M.G. Oil about June, or the beginning of July. Then I was brought on board in July as general manager. It was a golden opportunity.”
The job did bring with it the requirement for a variety of mitigating actions, such as those taken by many businesses in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wipe things down as best we can,” Brallier explained. “Obviously a challenge is bowling balls and shoes. We have disinfectant for the shoes. When customers are done bowling, one of my team comes to the front desk. Customers don’t put them away.
“My team cleans off the balls as best they can. Wipes down stuff, the touch pad screens (located on all the lanes and used by the bowlers for keeping score); puts the balls away and tries to keep things clean.
“We’ve got anti-bacterial hand soap around, disinfectant. My team wears masks when customers are here. We hand out masks. The City did a great job of giving us masks. We’ve got them at the front desk; we encourage the best we can.”
“My team does the best job we can. We try to keep everybody as safe as we can. We don’t want a breakout.”
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]