Left of Center by Joshua Maloni
I cringed the moment the words left my mouth.
"Bowling alley," I said.
The Lewiston Event Center - formerly Frontier Lanes - is so much more than tenpin.
It now has a golf simulator.
A dozen different video games.
Flat-screen TVs playing Buffalo Bills and Sabres games.
Pizza, chicken wings, sandwiches, wraps and salads served in a full-scale bar.
Did I mention the golf simulator?
"This is the owners' pride and joy," LEC manager Kim Cudmore said. "They put a lot of hard work and money into this room this summer."
Jonathan Simon plays the golf simulator at Lewiston Event Center.
The simulator is the cherry on top of three years of renovation. In the time since Emery Simon and Harold Hibbard purchased 845 Cayuga St., the building has been completely transformed - inside and out.
First, the owners fixed the roofs, slapped on a new coat of paint, replaced the ceiling tiles and installed LED lighting. Then, they mounted a new bowling scoring system and a fleet of flat-screen TVs. They've twice reconfigured the bar, adding more seating - and more drinks - and recently upgraded the kitchen.
Last year, the east (or entrance right) lanes were upgraded and the walls painted. This past summer, the west lanes got a makeover.
"We leveled off this whole low side," Cudmore said as she pointed to the now-level floor. "Where the gray carpet is, it used to be a step down, and then flat, and then a step up into the lanes - the approach. So we filled this all in."
New tables and chairs complement the look.
"All these tables and chairs have been made out of the existing wood that we took out of lanes one through six," she said. "After we looked at it, we said, 'That would be perfect. ... How fitting for a bowling alley.' "
The former alley seating was repurposed into front lobby lounging areas.
The west side now has a new scoring system and plenty of flat-screen TVs, allowing guests to bowl and watch sporting events simultaneously.
"There is televisions every place in this whole building," Cudmore said. "For sporting events, there's not a bad seat in the house. You can literally see from any seat you're sitting in."
Where the six lanes were removed now sits what, from the outside, appears to be a large conference-type area. But, inside, guests will notice the room is far more than tables and chairs.
Two large golf simulators await sports and gaming enthusiasts. Each is accompanied by a bar-stooled serving area, which can be used for eating, drinking and mingling.
"Right now, we have two multisport simulators," Cudmore said. "We primarily bought it for golf, but we're finding out it also offers baseball, football, soccer, rugby, carnival games, zombie dodgeball - I think there's like 36 games you can play on this. So, kids are coming in to play it."
The golf simulators offer 93 pro courses and playing options including chipping and driving.
"We're really proud of how it turned out," Cudmore said. "And the response from the public, when people see it, is, like, 'Wow.' They can't believe how big it is, first of all, back here."
"There's a lot more than just bowling," she noted.
Golf leagues are in the works. In the meantime, simulator reservations are recommended.
The LEC takes great pride in its kitchen and recently added a new pizza oven and some new deals, including a Saturday night dine-in special (5-10 p.m.), which is a half-tray of pizza with one topping and 10 chicken wings for $19.95. There's also the popular 50-cent wing night on Tuesdays and $2 off a takeout pizza each Wednesday.
The twice-upgraded bar recently added a 14-tap beer system with rotating craft selections. It's become a popular spot for Sunday football games.
"People are starting to come back," Cudmore said. "People that haven't been through the door in four or five years have come back and said, 'Wow; this doesn't even look like the place we were at.' Actually, the old owner was in last Wednesday - and he couldn't believe the changes."
Two weeks ago, "We had a chamber mixer here ... and we've had two people come back, because they said, 'I could not believe this pizza was from here,' " Cudmore said.
"Once people taste it, they're hooked on it," she added.
"The Lewiston Event Center has made many great improvements this year," said Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Pauly. "The chamber hosted our fall business 'Blender Bowl-a-rama' in October there. It was originally scheduled for February but, with all of the new changes made, we wanted to make sure members were able to check out the new simulator room. The new room is a great place to host a corporate event or family get-together.
"Adding more options to complement bowling is really making the Event Center a destination for all ages."
The LEC also made a video game space where children and teens also can watch movies. Their parents are welcome to come back on the weekend for live music, with different acts rotating in and out.
Cudmore said Simon and Hibbard "don't want to stop; they want to keep going. They want to bring this back. They both grew up here and they saw when this was packed all the time. That's what they want to bring it back to."
She said she's proud of the time and money they've put toward that goal.
"Once people come through here, they're very impressed," Cudmore said. "They tend to come back. It's just getting the people in here. But it's getting easier now, because the word of mouth has gotten around."