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Longmont's kingpin

By Abbe Smith
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Families are getting creative these days when brainstorming affordable ways to spend Friday night together.

Entertainment other than an old-fashioned game of Monopoly can cost big bucks, but local business owners Frank and Donna Angstead say they have an inexpensive and classic alternative: bowling.

A family of four — two adults and two kids — can bowl a game and rent shoes for about $20 on a Friday evening at Centennial Lanes in Longmont. Or that family can see the new Vin Diesel movie for a price tag closer to $30. Start adding popcorn and bucket-sized fountain drinks and that price can double quicker than you can say “Hold the butter.”

The Angsteads, who own Centennial Lanes, are celebrating 25 years of business this month.

It all started with a 15-year-old pin-setter in a bowling alley in Oregon.

“My husband, it was his dream,” Donna Angstead said of the teenage bowling entrepreneur-to-be.

Frank Angstead, also an accountant and owner of a local model train company, Intermountain Railway, realized his dream in 1979 and struggled to turn it into a success story.

“Business is very good,” Donna said of recent times. She said the business has not been too affected by the recent recession.

The kingpins of Longmont’s modest bowling empire — Loveland and Louisville have the next closest bowling centers — gave out hats and mugs to veteran bowlers to commemorate their 25th anniversary. Other bowlers scored sweatshirts, T-shirts and even free oil changes.

After 25 years, Angstead said not much has changed, but she is seeing a resurgence of family bowling.

“Bowling remains, economically, something that people can do,” she said, adding: “It’s exercise.”

But Angstead cites a more fundamental reason for Centennial’s longevity.

“I keep coming back to the same old song; it’s a gathering place for people who want to have fun with their friends.”

“Fun” is a buzzword for Donna Angstead, who wore a red-and-white striped shirt with ladybugs on it.

“Lucky ladybugs!” she shouted, raising her hands in a victory poise, and then, “No, it’s just for fun,” she added, returning to her soft-spoken demeanor.

Fun for Donna Angstead goes back 25 years, not only to the start of the business, but to the birth of her own women-only bowling league, the Centennial Splitters.

The Splitters is both the largest ladies league in the area, with 100 women, and a member of the Women’s International Bowling Congress, which is slated to go coed this winter when it merges with the American Bowling Congress.

She’s OK with the merger — “I like men,” she said — but Angstead is sad to see the umbrella ladies-only league go.

“I appreciate that we have a special bond as women,” she said.

But the Splitters are here to stay.

Veteran Splitter Pat Lloyd — “an icon,” according to Angstead — has weathered the good and the bad over the years at Centennial.

Lloyd’s two boys participated in the youth program for many years and she still plays in three leagues at Centennial. And, to top it all off, she’s a switch bowler.

“I bowled right-handed for 30 years,” she said last week over the sound of pins tumbling and balls pounding the lane. “Then I had surgery on my right hand. So I started bowling with my left hand.”

This month Lloyd bowled in a seniors competition in Denver.

“I averaged a 159,” Lloyd said.

“Oh!” Angstead replied and the bowling pals slapped five.

Carol Angstead, wife of general manager Don Angstead — one of Frank and Donna’s three sons — said the real cash crop for the lanes is the bowling leagues.

“Leagues are our bread and butter,” she said Wednesday in between answering phones at the front counter.

League bowling is doing well, according to Donna Angstead, but like everywhere else, it’s declining.

“That’s where our society is. Lion’s Club. Churches. People aren’t signing up anymore,” Angstead said. “We try to meet the needs of what the people want.”

The Angsteads offer food and bar service at their lanes. They do birthday parties, have youth leagues and work with special-needs groups.

Donna Angstead always goes back to her motto for Centennial: fun and friendship.

“So anyone can come and bowl,” she said. “From toddlers to super senior citizens.”

Abbe Smith can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at asmith@times-call.com.