Beloved Fremont bowling alley could be demolished for housing

Family owned and operated for 55 years, the Cloverleaf Family Bowl is the last remaining bowling alley in the city of Fremont. Concerns are mounting Tuesday it could be demolished to make way for more housing.

An online petition has gathered more than 10,000 signatures to save the bowling alley that's served generations of bowlers. 

Inside Cloverleaf Family Bowl, on any given night, the place is packed with families having fun knocking down bowling pins.

Among them Jennifer Koontz and her family, her husband grew up bowling in a league here. Now they bring own children.

“This is the last standing bowling alley as far as I know in the surrounding areas,” said Jennifer Koontz of Fremont. “It reminds me of the drive-in movie theatres because they are rare now.”

“We are a major part of the city and community,” said Cloverleaf Family Bowl Onwer Mike Hillman. “Things we do for the kids and the seniors and special needs programs. They are important to us and they are important to them.”

It’s considered an institution in Fremont but that's in jeopardy. Mike Hillman is the owner. His grandparents opened the bowling alley in 1963. He said there are plans to tear down the buildings in the old Fremont center and that everything in the center would be demolished except the Taco Bell, all to build more homes.

“It doesn't make sense to me why anyone in the city of Fremont would see a need to send us off packing and put more homes here,” said Hillman. 

The City of Fremont said it's received a preliminary application to develop the 8-acre site to include 8,000 square feet of commercial space, 130 condos and 140 apartments.

In a statement, the planning department said “We have received numerous emails from the community about the bowling alley. Given that the building that the bowling alley occupies could be a potential historic resource, it will require evaluation to determine its historic significance.”

“It’s fun you get to hang out with your friends,” said Harley Shene of San Jose. “You get to bowl competitively. If you win, it's happy. If you lose, you get to learn something.”

Cloverleaf Family Bowl is where champions like 13-year-old Harley Shene are born. He started bowling here since he was five years old. He won a national bowling championship last year for his age division and doesn't want to see this place go away.

“I don't want it to happen,” said Shene. “I don't know where everyone will go. I will lose all my friends.”

KTVU spoke to the property owner who had vague plans for the center. The alley has five years left on its lease. The Cloverleaf Family Bown owner said attempts to extend the lease so far have been unsuccessful and building a brand new bowling center would cost millions of dollars.