Dreamland Bowl has been a downtown fixture here since it opened in 1948. The popular four-lane alley survived the massive 1964 earthquake and one fire. But tourism will prove its undoing.
The city's only alley was recently sold because it sits on prime land near the Alaska SeaLife Center. Developers will tear it down to build a hotel.
''A bowling alley doesn't have to have this kind of a view,'' said Darrell Rogers, who is half of the husband-wife team that owns and operates the alley near the city's waterfront.
He had to raise his voice over the din of cheering bowlers, falling pins and John Fogerty's ''Centerfield'' thumping out of the alley's old jukebox. It was 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and teams from Eagle River were hurling 15-pound balls and drinking dollar beers in Dreamland Bowl's final tournament.
Teams from all over Southcentral have descended on Seward for years to test their skills in what are considered four of the toughest lanes in Alaska.
''It's more or less a tradition for us,'' said Roger Roth of Eagle River.
Despite the tradition, Rogers and his wife, Kim Kowalski-Rogers, recently agreed to sell the faded green, steel-sided Dreamland Bowl -- and the four 30-foot-by-100-foot city lots it occupies -- to a Fairbanks hotel owner.
''It was time for a change for the wife and I,'' Rogers said.
Kowalski-Rogers grew up with the alley. Her father, Marty Kowalski, and his wife, Donna, bought it in 1966 from Donna's parents, Gordon and Gladys Black, the founders. Kim and Darrell took over in 1983. The alley closes for good Sunday, a day after the SeaLife Center opens.
By this time next year, the old lanes where off-duty longshoremen once bowled the night away may be gone.
Expected to rise in its place will be Hotel Edgewater, with 75 rooms spread over three stories. It will cater to conventioneers and weekend tourists cruising Kenai Fjords, fishing for silver salmon or viewing exhibits at the nearby Alaska SeaLife Center.
''There are people disappointed the bowling alley's going away, but there hasn't been any opposition,'' said Paul Carter, who owns Denali River Cabins near Denali National Park. He said he's investing several million dollars to build what will be Seward's largest hotel.
By Sunday, Seward's 200 bowlers won't have any place to go.
One of them, former Seward fire chief Oscar Watsjold, 80, has bowled at Dreamland nearly every day since the lanes opened in 1948 and the pins were set by hand. Like clockwork, he and a couple of buddies arrive every afternoon about 1 p.m. and quietly bowl three games before tournament madness takes over.
Watsjold said he'll miss Dreamland Bowl, but he and the other diehards figure some entrepreneur will pick up the slack.
Carter has offered the 1915-era building and its circa-1968 pin-setting machines and hard-wood lanes to a nonprofit group, but nobody's taken him up on it so far, he said.
''There seems to be a quiet resignation,'' said Seward Mayor Bob Satin.
Satin, who has a background in urban and regional planning, chalks up the end of Dreamland Bowl as one more sign of change as the city shifts from a blue-collar town to a major Alaska tourist destination.
''The concept of family businesses seems to be fading,'' he said.
He noted that Anchorage-based Spenard Builders Supply recently bought Seward's locally owned hardware store. And, he said, Kenai Fjords Tours, which leads wildlife viewing cruises, started as a mom-and-pop outfit before it was sold a couple of years ago to Cook Inlet Region Inc.
At the same time, Satin said, Seward's sense of community remains strong.
''This is a nice place to live, and the people who are here know that,'' he said. ''They want to preserve the best qualities of the town. They don't want to become a series of T-shirt shops. That's not the kind of town we are.''
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