The bowling alley still lodged in your childhood memories has probably changed a bit over the years, if it even exists at all.
Owner Robert Gallaugher has ensured that Heartland Bowl, Stettler’s eight-lanes bowling facility is not only in good shape throughout the year, but is suitable for some of the top bowlers from the province to bowl.
Gallaugher’s bowling career started way back in the early 1980s in Wetaskiwin.
“I was looking for a job at the time and my interview consisted of whether I knew how to keep score,” said Gallaugher laughing. He replied in the affirmative and the rest is history.
“I worked for owners Ed and Connie Wendt till 1992 until they sold it to Deb Kovacs who is still the owner,” Gallaugher added.
However, the sale happened on the condition that Gallaugher would still be working there.
“So in total I worked there itself for 20 years,” Gallaugher said. “We went from an eight-lanes 5-pin centre and pool hall to eight-lanes 5-pin, six-lanes 10-pin and a lounge facility, expanding staff from three to 14 during my time.”
Gallaugher became a bowler as he spent more time in the alleys and trained to become a Level 2 instructor so that he could coach kids and later on adults.
“In 2007 when I heard that Heartland Bowl was for sale, I talked to my good friend Bill Whyte of Wetaskiwin and we became partners in the venture, but after two years I bought him out as Bill wanted to travel the world,” said Gallaugher. “The town responded very well to me coming here.”
Gallaugher spent some money and got the place out of the 1970s.
“The support has been great and all the new friends that I have made here are for life, it has been unbelievable,” Gallaugher added.
Never a quiet moment at the facility, there are leagues for all ages.
The adult leagues are on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, mostly in the evenings, while seniors play on Tuesday and Friday afternoons; the ladies’ play on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and the youth can bowl on Tuesday afternoon and Saturday morning.
“The sport of bowling is the most involved sport across Canada,” Gallaugher said. “If it was worldwide, which unfortunately it is not, we would be able to get big sponsors and get it back on TV where it belongs.”
Gallaugher said that when bowling was on TV in the 1980s and 1990s, it was the third-most watched sport, behind hockey and football.
“Some of my fondest memories have been taking kids to provincials and national championships, especially when they would rank right up there, and all of those kids are still some of my best friends!” Gallaugher added. “When you make friends in bowling, you make friends for life.”
Heartland Bowl will be hosting its biggest tournament, the 10th Annual No Tap Memorial Tournament from Friday to Sunday, March 10-12, in memory of builder and former owner Ray Plante and Gallaugher’s brother, Elmer Gallaugher.