Development won’t spare bowling alley

Dueling proposals to build an art museum or a history museum at Presidio National Park have at least one thing in common: Both projects would demolish a 10-pin bowling center, halving the number of bowling lanes in San Francisco from 24 to 12.

Presidio trustees have received two proposals to build a museum at Montgomery and Moraga streets in the Presidio. Gap founder Don Fisher wants to build a public museum for his contemporary art collection, and the Presidio Historical Association wants a local history museum.

Either project would demolish the 12-lane Presidio Bowling Center. Nearly 1,000 people use the center for league events organized by the Golden Gate Sport and Social Club, according to general manager Michael Murphy.

Opened in late 1988, the center uses pin-setting equipment previously used by the Army at its Presidio bowling alleys, owner Victor Meyerhoff said.

Games at the Presidio currently cost $5.50, and shoes cost $4 to rent. Prices are roughly similar at the 12-lane Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center — The City’s only other bowling center. The City had 14 bowling centers in the 1940s, according to Rex Golobic, who today owns three Bay Area bowling centers.

“Without the Presidio’s help, this bowling center will disappear,” Meyerhoff said. “I’ve even tried to look at the financials of putting another bowling center in San Francisco and it just doesn’t work — unless you want to charge $20 a game.”

More than 250 people on average bowl every day at Presidio Bowling Center, which employs 22 people, according to figures provided by Meyerhoff.

The high density of buildings in San Francisco has pushed bowling out of The City, said Nickie Pemberton, president of the San Francisco division of the U.S. Bowling Congress. “When the bowling centers close,” she said, “they’re razed and an office building goes up, or living quarters, or something else goes up.”

Presidio spokeswoman Dana Polk said the Presidio has offered Meyerhoff a warehouse to use for bowling at Crissy Field, but Meyerhoff said it would cost $7 million to move — a price he says is too high to consider.

jupton@examiner.com

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