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Smithtown bowling alley closed by blizzard reopens

John G. Schreiber, 79, of Smithtown, bowls with

John G. Schreiber, 79, of Smithtown, bowls with his wife, Rita, and sons, Ed and Bob, during league play at AMF Smithtown Lanes. (Sept. 5, 2013) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Officials from a Smithtown bowling alley -- closed for more than six months after a thrashing by February's blizzard -- are planning a grand reopening by the end of the month.

AMF Smithtown Lanes reopened to leagues last week for the first time since a 60-by-108-foot section of the bowling alley's roof collapsed under the weight of snow, which was 30 inches deep in some areas.

"Then the sprinkler system went off in the entire building, and there was some water main breaks," Smithtown Lanes general manager Donald Stewart said. "We had to get all of the rubble out. . . . It was a lot of snow, ice, water."

No one was in the 55-year-old bowling alley at the time of the collapse, he said, but about 700 league bowlers and 25 employees were relocated to area bowling centers in communities including Sayville, Commack and Centereach.

Officials declined to estimate the cost of the repair, but said it was "significant."

Stewart said there were "close to 100 people working on certain days" during reconstruction. Crews reinforced the roof and replaced some roof trusses, along with all bowling balls, shoes, and carpeting. New bowling machines were installed and 36 lanes were replaced.

On a recent night, bowlers said they were glad to be back.

"It's your home away from home," said Jayu Kulkarni, 42, of Ronkonkoma, president of a 60-person league that has existed for more than 20 years.

"Coming here is like going to Cheers," said Jimmy Phipps, 50, of Smithtown, referring to the Boston bar featured in a popular TV show, "where everybody knows your name."

Barri Keim, 35, of Smithtown, said she was "so sad when the roof collapsed, because I thought, 'What are we going to do on Thursday nights?' "

Though the league was temporarily relocated to Commack, she said, "it just didn't feel like home."

Rita and John G. Schreiber, 73 and 79, respectively, of Smithtown, gladly resumed a family tradition: bowling with their two sons, now adults, and keeping a tally of nickels for missed spares that will be used toward an end-of-season dinner.

"We've been bowling here since I was 6," said Ed Schreiber, 50, of St. James. "What I enjoy most is it's something I can do with my parents still."

For Joe Koferl, 68, of Huntington, the new interior offers a more airy feel, with a more easily accessible bar. Steps leading down to lanes were removed, he said, and the bowling machines offer features such as a display of the speed of the bowling ball and automatic bumpers for kids.

Koferl's league, whose roughly 30 members are employed by the New York State Department of Transportation, is still "the fun league," he said.

One team applauded Janet Mahoney of Ronkonkoma, who scored her first strike of the night. "I'm very happy to be back here with the group I bowled with for so many years," she said. "I can just feel that 200 [score] coming now."

Such memories-in-the-making are why the company decided to stay in Smithtown, said Daren Tipton, district manager of AMF bowling centers on Long Island.

"It's been a staple here," he said. "There's so many league bowlers . . . and their kids and grandkids bowl here, so I think it's important to maintain that sense of community."

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