RANGELEY – Well known for its gorgeous lakes surrounded by majestic mountains this area has long been a magnet for droves of outdoor enthusiasts.
Now there’s a new reason of the indoor variety to come to Rangeley.
Last Friday night, the largest bowling events center in the northeast opened its doors on Main Street and was promptly mobbed by a big happy crowd. Moose Alley features a state-of-the-art, 10-lane bowling center, three top-of-the-line pool tables, five dart boards, a shuffleboard, a multi-game arcade center, and a new kitchen that serves up lunch and dinner. There are big comfy lounge areas, 30 TVs throughout, including a half dozen huge projection screen TVs; a full bar area for the 21 and older set that glows with a snazzy blue light sophistication and has a contemporary-style round fire pit nearby. Intricate fieldstone work throughout adds a cool, rustic Rangeley punctuation. On Friday and Saturday nights, live bands from Portland and Boston entertain while the more energetic hit the dance floor under large moose antler chandeliers.
And there’s more. A 50-seat private room that is sound proofed and features a projection TV for family reunions or corporate meetings where screen presentations may be needed, along with available catering services. Just outside, a large deck is under construction for outdoor seating with views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Another, 16-seat, glassed-in room is just off the lounge area for small private gatherings with a good view of the happenings going on in the center.
The whole place is like being on a cruise ship without any of the sea sickness.
“We were going for amazing,” Nancy Bessey said with a grin. “We wanted to bring indoors what’s amazing about Rangeley outdoors.”
Amazing, too, is that the former 7,000 square foot Club House, a restaurant, lounge and dance hall, closed on Feb. 7 and just three months and two weeks later the 15,700 square foot Moose Alley event center opened on May 20, employing 10 people.
“As soon as we closed the doors, we gutted everything, expanded and remodeled,” Bessey said. But the work to decide to build and design the bowling center was years in the making.
Bessey moved to Dallas Plantation in 1999. Although she wasn’t looking to go back into business when she came, “I wanted to find a way to boost business for everyone here,” Bessey said. “I wondered, how can I really help everyone? What would make a difference?”
While Rangeley offers the great outdoors, a good number of notable restaurants and a variety of places to stay from quaint bed & breakfasts to the historic Rangeley Inn, the question of what to do on a rainy day remained.
For Judy Morton, the executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, the answer to that question has been made a lot easier now that Moose Alley has opened.
“We’re ecstatic we now have an answer for inclement weather. It’s family entertainment at its best and it’s very important towards what the area can offer,” Morton said.
Bessey’s decision to build a bowling center came after growing up in a bowling family and, more recently, as she traveled with her daughter and professional golfer, Sam White, to tournaments across the country, the two would often go bowling together. As they bowled, they gathered ideas for designing an indoor recreational center for Rangeley.
“It’s very unusual to have a place like this for all ages. Normally it’s geared for either adults or kids,” she said. “We wanted it to appeal to every possible age group; to be sophisticated for adults and have fun kid stuff too.” She used local contractors in the construction of the facility. “Everything was done locally and we’re proud of that.”
Her bowling center had to be good enough to attract the serious bowlers too. In the fall, bowling leagues will get started and pool tournaments are in the works, both providing additional community activity.
Nightly, Bessey rents each lane for one hour so more people can play, the wait is no more than 15 minutes for a lane. The lanes, “come with all kinds of goodies,” she said. Glowing lanes, synchronized music and lights, an endless variety of song mixes and five projection screen TVs can lower for watching anything while bowling.
After all the work, Moose Alley opened on May 20. The parking lots along Main Street were full and inside hundreds of people were on hand to help open Moose Alley in grand fashion. Any opening night jitters quickly vanished, Bessey said. The design had worked very well.
“I was just thrilled,” she said and then looking out across the center, she added, “I’m really so happy with the way it turned out.”