By Sophie Tulp, shawneemissionpost.com intern
Two months after a devastating fire destroyed the inside of Mission Bowl on Martway, the business is poised to start its comeback. The long-time bowling alley has been a staple of community life in Mission for nearly 60 years, run by three generations of the same family.
The April fire left only the outer walls standing and demolition work on the interior has been completed. Reconstruction is expected to start in July, according to manager Cynthia Thomas, the grand-daughter of the founder. Construction plans will be submitted to the city on Friday and Thomas said an updated center could open by late October.
“You’re not going to recognize it,” when it opens its doors in a few months., Thomas said. No new features will be added, but everything will be updated, improved and up to Mission and Johnson County codes, she said.
“We are still going to have the same snack bar, front desk and arcade and everything that people have been accustomed to, it’s just going to be bigger and better and with a whole lot of pop,” Thomas said.
The miniature golf part of Mission Bowl is expected to open near the end of July, once electricity and plumbing are re-installed.
Since the April fire, Thomas and her staff have been splitting their time between their office trailer at the Mission location, and their Olathe Center. Thomas says the community support following the fire has kept her going through the past 10 weeks.
“The community has been amazing,” Thomas said. “Some of our seniors went out to our Olathe location and are currently bowling out there on Mondays, and my youth leagues are out there too. We even got letters from as far away as England and India [from] old-time customers [after the fire].”
Mission Bowl has been in Thomas’ family for 58 years, going on four generations of ownership. The bowling center itself was built by her grandfather’s’ construction company in 1956. After he was paralyzed in a bricklaying incident, his family wanted to make sure he had a career to sustain the family.
It is now owned by Thomas’ parents and uncles and the fourth generation is about to start working there.
The outer walls were all that remained intact after the blaze, which Thomas credits to their sound construction. Although the inside of the structure was destroyed, the outer structure remained in “almost perfect” condition Thomas says, calling it a “blessing.”
She credits the first-responding firefighters with saving the structure of the building.
“If it wasn’t for the dedication of those firemen that had been in my location a thousand times to do their usual training out in the parking lot, I don’t know if our center would truly be standing here today,” Thomas said. “They saved what was really important. It could have been a whole lot worse, but were still standing and that means something.”
Now, Thomas says, she and the community members can’t wait to open the doors of Mission Bowl to the community once again.
“It’s really important to the community that we get this back open,” Thomas said. “But more importantly, to my family that we get this back open. I dont’ know if we would have made it this far without [the community’s] support these last 10 weeks.”