"Work in progress" as Exmouth's new seafront bowling alley finally opens
By PGStrange | Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 23:49
COAST – EXMOUTH'S new bowling alley – has finally opened, but despite enthusiastic endorsement from East Devon District Council and the building's developer, some local residents have yet to be bowled over by it. While they feel it's "great fun", they say it's expensive to visit and improvements are required…
Exmouth's bowling alley developer Mark Quinn (left) and Cllr Graham Godbeer, EDDC Cabinet Member for Economy, go for a strike at Coast
The £2 million seafront attraction nearly hit the buffers in mid-November. Following a string of delays dating back to February 2008, EDDC served notice on the site developers – Harlequinn Bowling and Leisure Limited – that the building must be handed back to EDDC if the work wasn't completed within two months.
Last week EDDC inspectors confirmed that all parts of the building have now been finished "in line with agreed plans". The bowling area itself opened for business under a temporary licence on Boxing Day.
"I'm just delighted that the whole bowling centre is now finished and ready for action," said Cllr Graham Godbeer, EDDC Cabinet Member for Economy. "It's clear that a lot of work has taken place in recent weeks to add the final touches and allow the centre to open all its doors to the public.
"Residents and visitors alike will have a great time here and I'm sure the centre will give a huge boost to Exmouth seafront's year-round economic vitality. Everyone at EDDC wishes it every success for the future."
Mark Quinn, of Harlequinn Bowling and Leisure Ltd, added, "We were thrilled to be able to open the bowling centre on 26 December and have already found it to be a success, with many families enjoying the bistro-style food and bowling. We have received lots of positive comments and compliments about the design, style and quality of the building and interior design."
Joshua Davis, 12, was one of the first to use the alley between Christmas and New Year. He visited with friends and really enjoyed it.
"He thought it was good fun and definitely wants to go again," said his mother, Joy Davis, from Exmouth. "One of his friends who he went with has now been six times, so he clearly enjoyed it! It was quite expensive – four of them went and it was £4.50 for one game per child, but as I paid, Joshua didn't mind that!"
Ron Crisp, a local musician and grandfather, was also concerned about the cost of bowling. He visited Coast with his grandchildren at the weekend.
"We had a lot of fun at the new bowling alley," he said, "but it is quite expensive. Obviously it is early days for them – they hadn't even got the credit card machine up and running!"
Bowling costs may be a concern, but seem reasonable when compared to Tenpin Exeter, one of the nearest equivalent venues.
Coast costs £5 per game (adult) and £4.50 per game (junior), whereas Tenpin Exeter costs £6.75 per game (adult) and £5.25 per game (junior). Both alleys offer deals on two games or more, and discounts on party bookings.
Work in progress
"Joshua's only complaint was that the alley was clearly not finished," said Joy Davis. "There were rolls of cables and wires hanging from the ceiling. Also there was no heating, so it was quite cold, they didn't take their puffa jackets off at all. This was between Christmas and New Year. It's a work in progress, isn't it?"
"A soft play area for the babies with an adjacent 'mums and dads' coffee area for use while the older kids bowl is also needed," said Ron Crisp.
Mark Quinn, the building's developer, confirmed that improvements on the first floor are imminent. These include a soft play area for children, a seating area for parents to relax while their children play, party rooms, an entertainment stage, a restaurant and bar with views, and a function room with private bar and balcony. A ballroom – suitable for large functions – will be on the top floor.
But, according to local residents, getting the tenpin bowling to work on the ground floor must be the key priority.
"It is very noisy, and needs much better soundproofing," said Ron Crisp. "To make the alley work for Exmouth, they need special offers to attract business in, such as free coffee if you are bowling, and a deal of the day on food."
Sand – brought in by the public on their shoes into the venue – is also proving a problem.
"They are going to have to think about that, because of the sand from the adjacent beach," said Joy Davis. "It's all wood floors everywhere and the floor is slippery. It's not a problem around the aisles, because you haven't got your outdoor shoes on, but it is quite slippery in the communal areas."
So the jury is currently out over the new bowling alley. Given time, it may become a key attraction on Exmouth's seafront.
"As a parent, I think it's really good that it's there," said Joy Davis. "There aren't that many things in Exmouth that you can go and drop the children to and know that they are safe for an hour or whatever, so I think that's a very good thing."
Have you bowled at Coast yet? What do you think of it? You can review it here: Coast Cafe/Bar/Bowl
In pictures: Exmouth's Bowling alley: the story so far