OAKHURST – Local businessman Jeff Schneider is spearheading efforts to build Oakhurst a brand-new, state-of-the-art bowling alley. He’s inviting all interested parties to join a kick-off meeting on Thursday, Aug. 8 at the Oakhurst Community Center, starting at 7 p.m.
Schneider is a Fresno native who migrated to Oakhurst about two years ago when he married his wife Amy, who is a 20 year resident of Oakhurst.
He’s been bowling since he was five. Jeff and Amy were league bowlers at Sierra Lanes and were greatly disappointed when they heard the place was closing.
“We didn’t want to rely on the prior owners to create a new facility,” Schneider recounts.
“The terms that they wanted weren’t acceptable. All they wanted to do was build a building and they wanted to find a proprietor to lease the building and then incur all the expense to build it out into a bowling alley. So we would essentially be beholden to them to lease out a building that we could potentially lose later on again.”
The old bowling alley has made way for an incoming Grocery Outlet. When closing announcements were made, it was widely reported that another bowling alley would be build, despite the seemingly unlikelihood due to economic realities.
In fact, the Sierra Lanes building was gutted with very little salvaged, according to Schneider. Most everything was either sold or thrown out. The floor was cut up and trucked away. Only the 40 year old pin setters remain in storage, he said.
In an area that’s home to about 500 presumably disenfranchised league bowlers who are now wandering the streets with nowhere to go, Jeff wants to be part of the solution with a plan that includes autonomy.
Schneider wanted to create a more stable business model, and it’s personal too. “Since I have moved up here and plan to stay here the rest of my life, I will be damned if I don’t have a house to bowl in for the next 40 years.”
A few like-minded individuals got together to brainstorm ways to bring a bowling alley back to town. Schneider believes you can not underestimate the value of the venue.
“A lot of seniors used if for socialization and recreation and year round activities, and everybody was using that bowling alley. It became a social hub that I think is really critical to Oakhurst. So we decided that we were going to do something about it and we were going to have a barn-raising, and have Oakhurst Community Bowl built by the community and for the community, never to be taken away from us again. “
Working tirelessly with Brad Ditton at Century 21, Schneider has already embarked on the search for suitable real estate. In the process, he’s become acquainted with his second cousin, Roger Schneider, whom he’d never met before.
“Roger and I are trying to work together and we have a couple of other people that are interested in funding the project. We also have a lot of community support from contractors of all kinds who are bowlers that want to contribute to the project. We have offers of assistance from places like Outback Materials to donate a big portion of cement for the foundation. District Supervisor Tom Wheeler is helping communicate with five area Chambers of Commerce including Mariposa.”
Now Schneider and the team are looking for an up-swelling of community support for the idea.
“Everybody just wants to make this happen so we’re trying to get as much support as possible from as many people as possible so it can be as inexpensive as possible, so it can be sustainable.”
They’re not in it for the money, Schneider promises. He envisions a community social center and a place for kids to go.
“We’re hoping to build a state of the art facility that would house 24 lanes, the minimum number required to draw in regional and national level tournaments. I believe that Oakhurst is under-marketed and underutilized. It’s such a beautiful place, so close to Yosemite, I feel like we could hold major events and draw major crowds… fill the hotels, fill the restaurants, and bring some commerce into this town. “
Schneider, pictured here with his son Michael, age 13, hopes for a modern arcade, billiards and a “decent sports bar to watch the game in. We are hoping for a great party room and a facility that’s something that Oakhurst can show off and be proud.”
Learn more at Oakhurst Community Bowl