Metro Bowl closing on Airline Highway

Metro Bowl at 4388 Airline Highway in Baton Rouge will shut down on May 31, the management of owner Malco Theaters has told staff and league officials.

Malco Senior Vice President Rick Bourgeois, of Baton Rouge, said open bowling at Metro was almost non-existent and the center had struggled over the past five years to meet its financial obligations.

The 40-lane center will close about two weeks after the 54th anniversary of its grand opening on May 18, 1959. It opened that day as a 24-lane center named Plank Bowl. Jim Becht was the manager, according to the grand opening story in The Advocate. The article called it a “palatial” building that would give Baton Rouge three bowling centers and 72 lanes — at a time when bowling’s biggest boom of centers occurred, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The other centers at the time were the 32-lane Circle Bowl, which exists today as another of Malco’s properties, and the long-closed 16-lane Melrose Lanes.

Malco opened Premier Lanes Entertainment Center in Gonzales late last year.

“Our main concern is the existing 700-plus league bowlers that bowled at Metro,” Bourgeois said.

It is expected that some leagues will be able to move into open spots at the other two Malco sites at Circle and Premiere. However, there also has been discussion with the management at All-Star Lanes about helping bowling leagues continue.

Metro Bowl manager Allen Cope will be moving to Circle Bowl.

Metro Bowl was the home of some major tournament side events — the Bowler’s Journal Tournament and the BTM/1-2-3 — as part of the 2012 USBC Open held in Baton Rouge. It also hosted the 2013 Louisiana USBC Women’s Bowling Association championships and was one of the sites in 1993 for the then Women’s International Bowling Congress Championships.

Malco owns the two bowling centers in Lafayette: Lafayette Lanes and Acadiana Lanes.