SPECIAL FEATURE | Manchester’s Top 3 Bowling Alleys

March 22, 2013

HOME, SPECIAL FEATURES

Over a dozen new bowling alleys have opened in Manchester city centre over the past 6 months alone, with Manchester now boasting more ten-pin emporiums than any other city in Europe. But which one to choose?

Newsmanc’s intrepid reporter Mark Klienfield swaps his shoes to bring you the top 3 bowling alleys in the city.

3. Spare

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It goes without saying that a former church is not the most likely setting for an exclusive bowling alley. But a former parish on an unassuming Ancoats street has been lovingly converted in to a stunning haven which caters for the most discerning of bowler.

The main hall of the former church has been panelled from floor to ceiling with polished wood and handcrafted wooden toys make up the sparse yet classy decoration. Normal bowling shoes are available, but a collaboration with Manchester fashion designer Tom Blake has resulted in a limited edition run of 10 pairs of bespoke shoes for people who want to really push the boat out.

There’s no bar or restaurant per se, but each lane comes with a ‘house boy’ (their words, not mine) who serves a variety of free snacks and drinks. During our game we feasted on Bella Di Cerignola olives wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma, all washed down with port. Megabowl this ain’t.

At over thirty pounds a game Spare certainly isn’t cheap, and the exclusive feel may put people off. But the three-month waiting list seems to demonstrate that Spare can charge whatever the hell they like.

Spare, 47 George Leigh Street Manchester M4 5DR

£33 per person, per game

£9 extra for the Tom Blake limited edition shoes.

2. Bodacious Bowl

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Ahh, the 90s. Saturday morning cartoons, knowing the dance to the Macarena, untangling your slinky. And, of course, bowling.

Anyone in their late twenties or early thirties will remember the endless bowling parties: entering crude nicknames on sticky keypads, trying to locate your friend who was next to bowl but was off buying a Slush Puppie and a game of OutRun in the arcade on the way out.

Sound good? Well now you can relive it all at Bodacious Bowl, the brainchild of brothers Ted and Matt Simpkin.

The Simpkin brothers, who also run Space Bar on Oxford Road as well as Kiff Cafe in Chorlton, finally opened Bodacious Bowl in February after the idea struck them during a drunken conversation with friends in 2010.

“We just think bowling should be exactly as it was when you were a kid, and for us that’s the late 80s and early 90s”, explains Ted.

The brothers’ ideas became a reality when a chain of Devon bowling alleys went in to administration in 2011.

“The administrators were selling off all of this great, old AMF bowling equipment. The old scoring units, shoes, arcade machines, air hockey, the works. We snapped it up, shipped it to Manchester and set the place up exactly how we remembered our old local Bowlplex. The only difference is the price, obviously.”

The key to Bodacious is the little touches; the attention to detail. You swap your money for old 50p pieces to use in the original arcade machines, the lanes are set up so that a pin or a ball gets stuck in the mechanism every now and again, solution is applied to the floor each and every day to keep it sticky and the deep fried food is purposefully awful.

“The details are important to us”, agrees Matt.

“We’re not selling bowling, we’re selling a lifestyle. A memory. A slice of nostalgia”.

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Bodacious Bowl, 60 Sackville Street, Manchester M1 3W

£22 per person, per game

£8 for a ‘Retro Curly Fries Sharer’

 

1. Southern Quarter Lanes

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Southern Quarter Lanes isn’t just the bowling alley to be seen in Manchester, it’s simply the place to be seen in Manchester.

This isn’t the bowling you’ve seen before. A 20,000 square foot complex of cool; interwoven with restaurants, VIP lounges, a revolving roster of superstar DJs (NYC queen of cool Cassie Coane dropped by last week) and classic films playing on flat-screen televisions above the pins. Table service comes as standard.

Again, it’s the little touches. Scores are recorded on iPads, 3D replays of your strikes, celebrity pop-up menus, original Americana bowling shirts for rent and The Big Lebowski playing in all of the toilets. It’s perfect.

A strict dress code (nicknamed ‘easy cool’ by the management) means that the bouncers are turning away nearly a quarter of the people who are queuing for at least an hour to get in. And did we mention that you need to be a member?

“A little exclusivity is never a bad thing”, grins Tom Slater, CEO of Dropstar Entertainment, who own a host of bars and eateries across the city along with Southern Quarter Lanes.

“We know that the majority of people who come here don’t even like bowling. Some of them don’t even play – they come to grab one of our 50 craft beers, or pick up a Makizushi Sushi Platter in our Asian-inspired lounge.”

“Bowling is just the conduit to the overall experience.”

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Southern Quarter Lanes, 18 Whitworth Street West, Manchester, M15 4PU

Strictly limited edition membership starts from £40.

Games from £21.

 

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