Carrie Rengers

Thunderbird Bowl to close after more than a half century in business

Bowlers enter Thunderbird Lanes on South Oliver on Friday.
Bowlers enter Thunderbird Lanes on South Oliver on Friday. The Wichita Eagle

More than 50 years after opening, Thunderbird Bowl is closing.

“There were some tears this morning,” says Jodi Bartman, who started telling league bowlers on Thursday morning.

The 40-lane Thunderbird was built at 2440 S. Oliver in 1963. Bartman’s parents, Bud and Nadine Oppliger, took over the business in 1974.

“It’ll be 41 years,” she says of her family running the business.

Bartman says she tried to buy the building or renegotiate its lease but couldn’t do either.

Her lease is up in July, but the business will close at the end of April. The owner of Seneca Bowl and Derby Bowl is buying Thunderbird’s equipment.

Bartman says league play will move to those lanes.

There’s a slight chance Thunderbird could reopen elsewhere.

“That’s a remote possibilty, I suppose,” Bartman says. “Never say never, but I doubt it.”

She says a bowling alley is expensive to run.

“It’s not an easy business,” Bartman says. Also, she says, “It’s not cheap to build a bowling center.”

Bartman says it was sad to tell customers of the closing, and that’s how she feels, too.

“Very sad.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.