1 month after fire, Platteville bowling alley moving toward reopening

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A Platteville bowling alley and restaurant plans to reopen in January following an attic fire last month that shuttered the establishment.

Repairs are progressing faster than expected.

“It really wasn’t as much damage as we initially anticipated,” said Joe Haack, owner of Pioneer Lanes Bar, Grill & Banquet Center.

The sounds of whirring saws and pounding hammers filled the building this week, and crews cut drywall, installed drop ceiling tiles and strung wire.

Cleanup began a few days after the fire on Nov. 14. It caused smoke and water damage to the building, which was constructed in sections in 1975 and 1976. There were no injuries.

Platteville Fire Chief Ryan Simmons said that without conducting a costly engineering analysis, a definitive cause of the fire cannot be determined. However, the evidence suggests the blaze originated in electrical wiring in the attic.

“They were very fortunate that it didn’t turn into something much worse than it was,” he said. “I relate that to people being there at the time, so they smelled it and noticed it early on.”

Much of the damage was caused not by the fire, but smoke and water. The blaze burned a hole through the roof and melted a plastic water line.

Water from the line and firefighters’ hoses cascaded through the ceiling, across a concourse, down a small staircase and past the settee area before inundating the bowling lanes. About five lanes were waterlogged, and the rest suffered exposure to humidity and acidic soot.

The facility’s 24 lanes were replaced with new ones that glow in the dark. The bar also got a makeover, and new carpet and ceiling tiles will be added. Haack also ordered 400 pairs of new bowling shoes.

Haack estimated that replacing the lanes and lane tiling alone cost $180,000.

The fire compounded difficulties the business faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially its restaurant, as customers avoided indoor dining as the state saw more coronavirus infections.

About 1/3 of sales come from food, Haack said. Before the fire, he had nearly reached profitability.

Haack said Pioneer Lanes will reopen to bowling leagues on Jan. 19, with a soft opening to follow later that week. He has not determined the business’ hours of operation.

Haack has posted regular updates on the venue’s Facebook page and is invigorated by the encouragement. He has had to turn down offers from people who have lent their construction expertise.

“In every tragedy, there is always a silver lining,” Haack said. “I guess the silver lining, for us, was just the community … support.”