Patrons of Thunderbolt Lanes, the bowling alley on Luke Air Force Base, will soon need to look for other options as the facility is slated for closure Feb. 7.
For a list of other bowling alleys near Luke, see the sidebar with this story. Many of these lanes offer military discounts.
The reason for the closure is that Thunderbolt Lanes, a morale, welfare and recreation activity that runs on Non-Appropriated Funds, was not making enough money to sustain its operations, said Lt. Col. Todd Ladd, 56th Force Support Squadron commander.
“This wasn’t an easy decision, but one we had to make given the significant losses incurred by the bowling center over the past few years and the fiscal constraints we as an Air Force are currently facing,” he said.
In the past, Appropriated Funds – i.e. money appropriated by Congress – were used to supplement NAF funds to support MWR activities. However, as part of the Air Force Services Transformation initiative, senior leaders responsible for MWR policies recently informed bases across the Air Force that Appropriated Funds will no longer be used to subsidize many MWR activities starting in October 2014.
In other words, Ladd said, these activities will have to be fully self-sustaining and generate the revenue needed to cover all expenses.
Unfortunately, Thunderbolt Lanes has not been able to do this for quite some time, he said. Since 2009, it has seen a steep decline in revenue from $403,000 in 2009 to $264,000 in 2013 as well as losses of more than $500,000 in operating expenses.
Competition from off-base bowling alleys – there are now at least four within 12 miles of Luke – has also cut into business at Thunderbolt Lanes, he said. Many of these lanes offer activities that far exceed the amenities the on-base facility provided.
By saving money on the bowling alley, FSS plans to reinvest in other MWR activities such as Club Five Six, Falcon Dunes Golf Course, Outdoor Recreation, the Child Development Center, Youth Center and the base library.
“This will help us significantly as we deliver our customers outstanding programs and services at a good value,” Ladd said.
“I’d like to thank the community that has supported Thunderbolt Lanes for many years,” he said. “I’d also like to thank the employees of the bowling center for the energy, passion and dedication that they’ve given to us over the years.”