End of an era: Jaybowl to close

Posted on May 4, 2015 in Campus News and News

jaybowl_logoAs we reported last month, the Jaybowl in the Kansas Union is finally closing after 62 years.

Since 1953, the Jaybowl has been a constant on campus, surviving countless renovations to Kansas Union, most recently in 2000, when plans for a cyber-cafe were changed after student protests, and the Jaybowl was, ahem, spared.

This time around, neither student sentiment nor nostalgia could make up for average annual losses of $17,000 per year, as reported in the Lawrence Journal-World. The decline in usage and the opportunity to add new programming space during the next renovation (slated to begin this summer) made the decision a game changer.

Alumni will remember the Jaybowl as a safe haven for weary students looking to blow off steam in the fifties and sixties by bowling a few lanes or playing billiards. In the seventies and eighties, pinball wizards took advantage of arcade games while the sounds of Pac-Man and Space Invaders joined the jukebox playing Led Zeppelin and the Steve Miller Band. Some Jaybowl visitors even had a chance to imbibe while beer was served briefly on campus until 1998. Lately, however, Cosmic bowling under black lights, birthday parties and other promotional efforts proved not enough to save it.

The Jaybowl leaves behind a legacy, serving as the home of the KU bowling team and the 1963 and 2004 intercollegiate bowling national champions. The notoriety, and bowling classes, helped attract students to the sport, including KU basketball and future NBA star Julian Wright, who famously picked up bowling as a hobby to relax, a practice he continues to this day.

The Kansas Union announced plans for a farewell celebration to be held this week on May 9, with games and activities before a final ceremonial last strike at 12:55 a.m. on May 10. Memorabilia, including bowling pins and shoes, will be for sale at the Jaybowl counter starting today until they’re gone. Pick up a pair–and maybe one last spare–while they last.

Have a special Jaybowl memory to share? Send us your best at share@kualumni.org.

–David Johnston

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