Los Angeles Sentinel
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The names World on Wheels, Midtown Lanes and Maria’s Café lie across this building for its final days.
World on Wheels Skating Rink, AMF Midtown Lanes and Maria’s Café will close on June 23.
A 26-year-old roller skater, Fresh, has spent almost every weekend skating at World on Wheels from the age of two. However, on June 23, Fresh will skate around the rink for the last time. After over 50 years of business, World on Wheels Skating Rink, AMF Midtown Lanes and Maria’s Café will close.
Managers of the building shared the somber news with their staff, along with bowling leagues and regular skaters on May 30. AMF is currently undergoing new management and to recover from their bankruptcy, they are not renewing the leases on bowling alleys that they can no longer afford, according to Dewann Clark, long time bowler, community organizer and former worker of Midtown Lanes. The building will now be in the hands of the shopping center owners. While they are aware of the building’s impact, it would be much more profitable to lease it to a store instead of keeping the bowling alley; not to mention that AMF owns all of the equipment inside the building, so if it were to stay open, new equipment would have to be purchased.
“It’s sad and I’ve been here for 30 years,” said Janice Waite, general manager of Midtown Lanes and World on Wheels. “…but it’s a business decision, what can we do?”
As the building is set to close in less than two weeks, there is a mix of reactions. Some have started petitions to keep the building open, which can be found at the entrances of the skating rink and the bowling alley. Others have just tried to accept the harsh reality. While the level of hope is different amongst the community, everyone’s emotional reaction remains the same, sad and disappointed. The skaters and bowlers of the Mid-City Los Angeles location have grown up in this building. Many of them have referred to it as a home away from home.
“It’s disappointing that the bowling alley is closing because I grew up here,” said Dante Davis, 43, a member of the Midtown Tournament Club. “I’ve been bowling here since I was 5 years old and it provided a lot of us, especially in the 80s, with a place to stay off the streets.”
Throughout the years, this building has played a role in the youth culture of Los Angeles. World on Wheels has been a place where teens can hang out and listen to the latest hip hop and R&B, or even watch an up-and-coming artist perform from time-to-time. Midtown Lanes has had junior leagues for years where kids and teens have created lifelong friendships. It has been a place where the young people of Los Angeles could come to release stress and where many people of Los Angeles spent their childhood. For people of this community and outside of this community, it is not just another bowling alley or skating rink, it’s a family.
“Where else are the kids going to go? There’s no other place or activity in the area that you can go to and do for four days out of the week, every week,” said Ron Harrison, one of the staff members at World on Wheels.
Members of bowling leagues and regular skaters have talked about the convenience of the location as well as the environment. While there are other bowling alleys in Los Angeles, no other bowling alley is going to hit you with the sounds of James Brown and laughter as you watch a legacy of generations come together. Skaters of World on Wheels are in a worse position, seeing as there is no other roller skating rink in Los Angeles.
This change is all very sudden and there is not much information about the future of the building. People are coming out in these last two weeks to enjoy this community treasure for their final times. As of now, Midtown Lanes and World on Wheels will have their final celebrations on June 23.