Soccer's arrival is pushing bowling out of a St. Paul neighborhood

A St. Paul bowling alley is pushed out after 57 years
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Major League Soccer is coming to St. Paul's Midway. Which means the Jewish Women's International League has to move out. 

JWI, as it's informally known, is one of the many bowling leagues that have gathered for years at Midway Pro Bowl. Owners of the 57-year-old bowling alley had to tell those leagues this week there won't be a new season at the basement lanes tucked into the Midway Shopping Center. 

Owners Scott Koecheler and Alan Loth posted on their website the news that Midway Pro Bowl is closing after the owner of the pro soccer team, Minnesota United, bought out the leases of the shopping center's tenants last week. 

The buildings that house the bowling alley and a handful of other businesses will be torn down to make room for Minnesota United's privately funded $200 million stadium.

The stadium project

Negotiations on the already-delayed soccer stadium project have been underway for a couple of years, so the buyout of the businesses – including a Rainbow Foods supermarket and a Walgreens – is not a surprise. 

The 19,000 seat stadium will bring life to a high-traffic corner of St. Paul (near Snelling and University) that's been vacant for decades. Pollution cleanup is finished and St. Paul plans to spend $18 million on water pipes, lighting, sidewalks and other upgrades at the site.

United's lead owner Bill McGuire and his partners plan to spend $200 million building Allianz Stadium, as it will be called, before turning it over to the city.

"Very difficult to go out like this"

In their statement, the bowling alley's owners mention by name both McGuire, and their landlords at the shopping center, RK Midway, saying "they are putting us out of business."

Koecheler tells FOX 9 he was hoping there'd be a way for Midway Pro Bowl to keep its longtime home even as the stadium arrived, but they've now been given their 90-day notice. 

They have not set a closing date yet. Loth tells the Pioneer Press the bowling alley's bulky equipment will "make it physically impossible for us to empty this building in 90 days."

They don't sound anxious to get started, either. The statement announcing cancellation of this year's leagues also says: "We will continue doing business with open and single day events until we have exhausted all legal options." 

Koecheler and Loth also thank their customers and finish by adding: "It's very difficult to go out like this."

Opened in 1960

Koecheler and Loth bought the bowling alley in 1983 but each had already been in the industry for a decade before that. 

According to their bios, Loth is in the Minnesota State Bowling Hall of Fame and Koecheler is commissioner of the Minnesota State High School Bowling League. 

They gave their business the Midway Pro Bowl name 34 years ago, but it actually opened back in 1960. A newspaper ad for the opening of Hall of Fame All Star Bowl brags that the place will be completely air conditioned with fully automated pin setters. 

Is a new version of Midway Pro Bowl in the cards? If so, it seems to be buried in the deck. The co-owners have nothing planned but they're not ruling out a new venture, with Koecheler telling the Pioneer Press "We still have some life left in us, and we'd love to stay in the business if it's at all possible."

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