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Demolition crews to level Sunset Bowl tomorrow

Posted by Geeky Swedes on January 19th, 2010

Update: Workers tell us that demolition has been delayed to tomorrow due to the unexpected amount of asbestos in the building and freon in the air conditioning unit that they’re currently removing.

Earlier: After decades as one of Ballard’s most popular hangouts, Sunset Bowl closed in April of 2008. Sunset Bowl auctioned off just about everything — even the bowling lanes. And now demolition crews are poised to tear down the colorful structure to make room for an apartment complex.

A small group of Ballard residents, armed with cameras, gathered this morning to watch the demolition, but crews told us they still have some asbestos removal to do before they start on tearing the building down later today. A worker says they’ll have three pieces of equipment working the demolition. We’ll post photos and videos here soon after the demolition begins.

Last year, a few Ballard residents initiated an effort to save Sunset Bowl, from attempting to designate the building as a historic landmark to working with its new owners to build a new bowling alley. But in the end, Avalon Ballard won design approval for a 233-unit apartment building with ground-level retail (above).

(Thanks BallardMike for posting word of the demolition in the forum.)

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60 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 UncleSnuffy // Jan 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Of all the changes that have taken place in Ballard, this one hurt me the most.

  • 2 jconli1 // Jan 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Just a damn shame. God forbid anyone in this town have simple working class family-friendly fun, or a place to go after 11pm for that matter. Let's watch another tanning salon, thai restaurant and generic fair-trade tchochke peddler pop up soon only to fail within a year.

  • 3 zipper // Jan 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Sad to see it go, but the family who owned it sold it. Guess they didn't care about working class family fun as much as they cared about millions of dollars.

  • 4 Vivian // Jan 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I'm as bummed as the next guy about this, but the simple working class family-friendly fun owners of the Sunset Bowl did SELL their property for profit.

  • 5 NoraBell // Jan 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Well, that's it. The last of the local bowling alleys will be just a faint memory. The crumbling remains have been sitting there for a very long time, sure, but this is is tragically final.

  • 6 Barney Stinson // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    You know as well as I do that the yuppies are to blame for this.


  • 7 juan grande // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm


    well..till Wednesday, I suppose.

  • 8 Mike G // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I'm sad to see it go too, but we can't just sit back and blame everyone else.

    If we cared enough about having a bowling alley in Ballard, we would have bowled more. I think, though, that many people liked the idea of having a bowling alley in the neighborhood more than actually going. I know I'm guilty of this.

  • 9 Luminous Works Carla // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Ah, the Sunset Bowl as I like to remember it, as photographed by one of my UW photography certificate program students:

  • 10 sdrake1958 // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Bowling allies used to be as common as gas stations. That is until the working class changed. Now, bowling is alomost a luxury. Sad, as just about anybody can bowl, and it's inside out of the rain. And yes, more yuppies will come, as they can afford to live in Seattle. Fact: yesterdays hippies are todays business-people/residents. Now, just imagine unemployed being hired to build something. Or is that bad news too?

  • 11 HL // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Interesting that they didn't know how much asbestos was there until the day they were supposed to raze the building. I guess I won't be going to stand around to watch and breath in all that good dust.

    Thanks for the memories, Sunset Bowl.

  • 12 jconli1 // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Of course, we all know that the owners sold the property. And there's no denying that's how the system works for better or worse, I'm as libertarian as the next guy, believe it or not. Its just a shame that short term turnaround profit and higher density is the focus in Seattle instead of long term capital sustainability. Wasn't this higher density zoning originally intended to have rapid transit as part of the formula? What's the condo vacancy rate in Ballard as it is? What's the turnaround rate of the small businesses being squeezed by high rent in those new buildings? That's the shame of it all. It is poor planning.

  • 13 BarneyRubble // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    The bowling alley didn't go out of business. It was one of the busiest in the country. The owners simply cashed out. I don't blame them one bit. They raked in almost 20 million in two years by selling two bowling alleys.

  • 14 Ballardite // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Actually, I'm concerned about this asbestos issue. If there's asbestos in the building, aren't they required to follow specific procedures in order to contain the asbestos? I sure hope they follow procedure so that our whole neighborhood — air, soil, water, etc. — doesn't get contaminated tomorrow. How can we find out more about their plans??

  • 15 Ytoo // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Business exists to make money not to entertain people.

  • 16 Ytoo // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    You are free to buy property and start another bowling establishment.

  • 17 zipper // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Yes there are procedures and yes they are following them, hence the delay. They've been properly removing asbestos for weeks now. But go ahead and get your self in a snit about it.

  • 18 mil0_dakkat // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Things certainly calmed down in the neighborhood after they closed the bowling alley–I don't miss seeing all the “working class fun” outside my kitchen window like I used to.

    Maybe they could tear down the KFC, Burger King and McD's while they're at it. If you want to rail against something, rail against these fine yuppie establishments.

    Lastly, I'm sure you can find a bowling app for your iPhone if you miss bowling so much.

  • 19 jconli1 // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    to each their own, but I live two blocks from there and have noticed more problems after it closed, especially from the mobile homeless that seemed to be in higher concentration once the parking spaces there weren't in use. Combine that with the city's lack of response to dead streetlights and it is mighty blighty along 14th.

  • 20 Vivian // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Seriously? Had you ever been there and tried to get a lane? As barney said. It was one of the busiest in the country.

    I'm going to miss the hourly rentals on Sunday mornings. Tossing balls and tossing back beers while others were still asleep or in church. <3 memories.

  • 21 Bark more, wag less // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    A bum camp in the heart of Ballard? Wow, that's brilliant.

  • 22 zipper // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I'm with you! Tear down fast food establishmetns!

  • 23 Eric // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    There already is one. Get out of your car once in a while and you might see it.

  • 24 ballardmike // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Not really… the cash outlay to set up something like this from scratch is pretty high.

  • 25 ballardmike // Jan 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Not really… the cash outlay to set up something like this from scratch is pretty high.

  • 26 Mike G // Jan 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Wow, I didn't know they were that busy. My mistake. I guess they just wanted to retire ($20 Million, wow! I'd retire too!).

  • 27 leafdrop // Jan 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Back to the Sunset bowl,It was dated , dark and wreaked of stale smoke.Don”t miss the greasy spoon either. The bowling I do miss.

  • 28 Herder // Jan 19, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    What next? I guess we're lucky the movie theater isn't on a stand-alone piece of real estate.

  • 29 BarneyRubble // Jan 20, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Must not have spent too much time there. Place was super bright… even at 3 or 4 in the morning.

  • 30 kelliekvinne // Jan 20, 2010 at 12:46 am

    I miss the old Ballard… I guess I'm just not trendy enough for you anymore.

  • 31 drinkypoo // Jan 20, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Umm, rapidride bus rapid transit will be serving 15th by 2012. And our new mayor McGinn plans to have light rail along this corridor up for a vote within a year or two. Density is sustainable, sprawl is not

  • 32 drinkypoo // Jan 20, 2010 at 12:57 am

    You can't really blame property owners from extracting what they can from their holdings. The well to do didn't become wealthy by making poor financial decisions.

  • 33 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:09 am

    If you could even find affordable space, get financing, create a loyal base of customers, etc.

  • 34 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Doesn't mean we have to like their decisions.

  • 35 ziwuxun123 // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:11 am

    want to tell you something about Converse history today. In 2008 the company celebrated its 100 anniversary. It was a great event because Converse is the best basketball shoes well known all over the world and worn by famous NBA players. But many of us don’t know that Converse didn’t start as a shoe company in basketball business

  • 36 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:16 am

    You could have built a dozen homeless shelters and you'd still have the same bums* doing the same sh++. The car campers aren't looking for shelters, they're looking to get high/drunk and be able to crash without the hassles that a shelter or RV park would have.

    *although most bums are homeless, not all homeless are bums and the bums we have aren't really looking for homes at the expense of their addictions.

  • 37 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Would someone please demolish this spambot?

    As far as the Sunset, I'll miss it. I wasn't a regular, but I did go bowling with friends every now and then and it was nice to have something to do in the neighborhood. Apparently a lot of other people liked it too as it was always packed.
    It doesn't make me an Old Ballard Curmudgeon or a bomb throwing anarchist to mourn the loss of a good bowling alley to another condo. I generally don't mind new condos that aren't complete eyesores but when we have nothing but condos, then what's left of the neighborhood that was supposed to be the attraction for all these new neighbors?

  • 38 Gene1 // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:35 am

    While “I Can Has Cheezburgers” has contributed to the ruination of the English language, ziwuxun123 doesn't even have cute kitties.

    I beg you, please pollute another blog.

  • 39 drinkypoo // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:40 am

    And we shouldn't have to like their decisions. I am actually familiar with the family that owned the bowling alleys' property, and I can say that they support a lot of good local causes. Bowling just wasn't their thing, and they decided to use their wealth to support other things.

  • 40 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:56 am

    It's a machine that generates links hidden in enough text copy and pasted to keywords. You cannot reason with it, just kill it.

  • 41 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 1:57 am

    …other things like a lavish lifestyle?

  • 42 Iron City Mike // Jan 20, 2010 at 2:42 am

    I'm new to the area, so my only memory of Sunset Bowl is an abandoned building and a vacant lot. Having someone actually invest in building on that site sounds like a good idea to me – better that then an eyesore for years to come (although I suppose to some condos are an eyesore…)

  • 43 NoraBell // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:05 am

    You add that last bit all the time so people the likes of me won't kvetch at you, don't you? ;-)

    It got that ugly over there because they, as usual, closed the business out before they got all the funding and approvals. The building sat and crumbled. Now I just hope they don't leave us with a dank cement hole like Denny's.

  • 44 NoraBell // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Plus all that 'bottom level retail' that remains empty.

  • 45 kimstewart78 // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:22 am

    The group of 'Ballard residents' are not Ballard residents. We were Sunset Bowl family member's. Most of us worked there and grew up there. We will be there till the very end.

  • 46 kimstewart78 // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:31 am

    How about all the people who worked there for over 20 years and lost there jobs when the bowl closed down?!?! And how about the people who grew up there?!?! And I don't know where you go to bowl, but most people who still bowl to this day are the working class, not the YUPPIES!

  • 47 Kat // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:57 am

    My grandfather had his coffee there every morning for the last 30+ years. He was there to watch it today (from his car, hes 81) and was noticeably sad today when I can to visit him. He will be there tomorrow to mourn his favorite spot. The Salmon Bay Cafe just isn't as nice to him as Sunset was.

  • 48 Ole Clunker // Jan 20, 2010 at 6:12 am

    I'd guess that younger generations have been more interested in computer games that can be played at home. Judging from all the local job ads we see advertised, the game business is certainly booming.

  • 49 longboarder // Jan 20, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Just because it would be ridiculously expensive to buy that property, or any property for that matter, and start another bowling establishment, doesn't mean you're not free to do so as Ytoo has pointed out.

    If you've got the WILL to create another bowling establishment, you'll find a way to do it. Anyone up to it??? No. There's no money in it and that's why they sold their business.

    Frankly, I'm glad they did it when they did! They got a much better deal then than they'd get now. They deserve that for keeping it alive as long as they did.

  • 50 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 7:57 am

    You didn't get the memo. The Sunset Bowl was one of the top grossing bowling alleys in the country and was quite profitable. The owners cashed out for a quick buck in real estate.

  • 51 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Exactly NoraBell. I don't have anything against the homeless and the food bank and all the good people doing things to ease the burden of poverty. I don't like the bums though, and they make it harder to help the needy. If more people were honest about the distinction between these bums and the homeless the truly needy would get a lot more help, and the bums might just get the help they need too.

  • 52 SPG // Jan 20, 2010 at 8:04 am

    It's been an eyesore for almost a year and will probably be one for another year. How long has it been since the Denny's was open?

  • 53 BarneyRubble // Jan 20, 2010 at 9:16 am

    You mean almost two years… April of 2008 was when it closed.

  • 54 longboarder // Jan 20, 2010 at 9:30 am

    No. I did not get that “memo”. I don't care what it might have said either, even if you had you delivered it personally and read it aloud to me, very slowly, because I'm not that bright. It's none of my business nor is it any of yours.

    They sold their business at a profit, or “quick buck” as you call it, even though they spent decades building it up at their own expense and risk. That is their prerogative. Period. They don't owe anyone anything.

    Of course I hate to see this place go, but the writing was on the wall 10 years ago. If bowling was a profitable enterprise, not just on IRS filings, but for your family, business partners, etc. I suspect there would be some clever entrepreneurs taking advantage of this obvious gap in the entertainment market.

    I'm really not trying to be snarky about this. Okay, maybe a little bit. I don't like seeing this happen either. You just can't support certain things indefinitely.

  • 55 longboarder // Jan 20, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. “Progress” is often unkind. The tearing down of viable businesses (or the offering of big buyout cash, as this case may be) does make me wonder. The empty condos here and downtown. The vacant lot that will at exist at Market and 14th tomorrow. The vacant storefronts that are seemingly everywhere.

    Sorry if I sounded like a prick earlier. I'm just glad a local business managed to cash out in the midst of it.

  • 56 kimstewart78 // Jan 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Is his name Archie? Cause if it is, I have known him most of my life. I also worked in the restaurant and waited on him. He is a good guy.

  • 57 WarrenJ // Jan 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    As a formed Ballrd resident and BHS grad., It is a shame that a part of history is gone.

  • 58 Kat // Jan 20, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    It is! I hope you know how much he appreciated you! Like I said, Salmon Bay really isn't very nice to him and his personality just gets saltier by the day, which doesn't help. I can't wait to tell him about this, I know he'll get a kick out of it.
    Thank you again for being so nice to him! You are missed!

  • 59 Lulu'smama // Jan 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Amen! Thanks for your post.

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