Construction has begun on a 30-lane duckpin bowling center in northern Glen Burnie that has other area duckpin operators nervous.
Owners hope Glen Burnie Bowl, set to open in August, will fill the void created when a five-alarm blaze destroyed Greenway, a popular duckpin alley, in downtown Glen Burnie two years ago.
The new alley is part of a renovation of the Beltway Crossing shopping center at Ritchie Highway and the Baltimore Beltway. Since Beltway Crossing opened seven years ago, many of its major stores -- including Mr. Goodbuys, a home-improvement retailer, and a Hardees fast food restaurant -- have come and gone.
Frank Ladyani, an owner of Glen Burnie Bowl and former manager of Greenway, said yesterday that he was confident the shopping center was turning around and that his alley was here to stay. He said a fitness center and an electronics outlet also were considering leases.
State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, said he was pleased to see improvements at the shopping center.
"From an economic development standpoint, I'd like to see some stability there," Mr. Jimeno said. "Greenway, they've always been known for their management."
Officials at Erwin L. Greenberg Commercial Corp., the shopping center's managers, could not be reached for comment.
Invented in the early 1900s at an alley owned by two Baltimore Orioles, the duckpin is about half the size of a tenpin. The 3 1/2 -pound ball is about a quarter the size of the one used in the larger game, but the lane is the same size.
The game once flourished in the Baltimore area, bit six independent duckpin centers have closed in the past four years. Operators of several duckpin centers said yesterday that building any new bowling alley -- particularly one catering to duckpins rather than tenpins -- bordered on foolish.
"Duckpins has really been on the decline the last 10 years or so," said Ed Cascoski, a former general manager for Greenway, which decided not to rebuild in Glen Burnie. "I don't understand why anyone would want to put in duckpins."
Steve Sandusky, owner of Riviera Bowl, called it a "risky investment."
"There is plenty of room for another center," said Mr. Sandusky. "You just don't have enough customers to go around."
Pat Teague, manager of Fairlanes Southwest in Linthicum, agreed. She said many of Greenway's bowlers brought their leagues to other duckpin centers such as hers. But many just gave up duckpins altogether, shrinking an already waning market, she said.
"Unless we can get parents to bring their kids in to learn duckpins, I think it might die," she said. "I hate to say it, but I don't think this is the time to build a duckpin center."
Mr. Ladyani dismissed his competitors' pessimism, saying he is confident that Greenway bowlers will return and that young families moving into the area will pick up the sport. He is running full-page newspaper ads to recruit league players and said he has lined up more than 800 league bowlers.
Ms. Teague acknowledged that Mr. Ladyani has drawn away at least four former Greenway leagues from her lanes. Bowling centers make their profits on league, rather than individual, play.
Greenway, which still operates a tenpin center in Odenton, "made a mistake when they decided not to rebuild in Glen Burnie," Mr. Ladyani said. "The people there supported them for 40 years, and they let them down."