AN eleventh-hour deal has secured a new home for a bowling alley.
The Excel Bowling Alley, in Monkwearmouth, has shut its doors after nearly 50 years in business.
But workers can look forward to a happier Christmas, after bosses and council officials thrashed out a last-minute deal to save their jobs.
Fears for the future of the city’s first bowling alley arose after Tesco submitted a planning application to level the site, in Newcastle Road, and build a new superstore and retail development in its place.
But now it seems the family-run firm, which closed on Sunday, will be back in business from a 19,396 square foot site in Sunderland Enterprise Park, subject to a planning application being approved.
Frank Stametti, who has run the business for more than 30 years, praised council officials who helped hammer out the agreement.
Mr Stametti, who builds bowling alleys around the world, including at the Olympic Village in London, said he hopes more jobs could be created.
“We got a great response from some of the planners there. They have worked very, very hard.
“It’s going to have 20 lanes, because the big bowling alley days are over.
“The same jobs will be going across there, but we hope to increase that.
“All in all we are now in a very good and strong position.”
He also thanked regulars, who helped put together a 5,000 signature petition calling on the council to step in and help save the Excel.
“There are a lot of memories here,” he added.
“People who started here as juniors and got engaged and married to each other and are still here. People have been coming for years. I have been here 31 years and people come week in, week out.
“It is part of their lives.”
His daughter Rachael Franklin, who has worked at bowling alley since she left school, added: “The response from the public has been fantastic.
“They are not like members of the public. They are like friends.
“We would to thank all of our customers for being as loyal as they have over the years.
“Hopefully we are looking forward to being of service to them again in the not-too-distant future.”
Staff and regulars, some who have been coming to the alley every week since it opened, gathered there for a farewell party.
The application for a change of use at the unit at Hylton Riverside could take up to 13 weeks to process, but staff have promised to keep regulars informed.
They also have assured bowlers that the new alley will be accredited by the British Tenpin Bowling Association, so league games and competitions can still take place.
Coun Bryan Charlton, Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for prosperous city, said: “The city council works hard to support local businesses and has carried out extensive searches to help Mr Stametti find new premises for his bowling centre.
“We are delighted that we have identified a potential new location for his business, and will continue to offer him the help and support he needs throughout the planning application process.”
l Share your memories and photos of the Excel Bowling Alley by email: email@example.com or tel. 565 8557.