BOWLING is in the blood for Margaret Snow.
The 61-year-old will shed a tear when Excel Bowling Alley shuts its doors at its Newcastle Road site after almost 50 years.
The building is packed with happy memories for regular Margaret who was introduced to the sport as a teenager by her parents.
Margaret, from Ryhope, went on to meet husband Colin, 60, at the alley. The pair married in 1976.
Son Michael, now 31, has recently returned to the sport after becoming a junior international in his youth.
Margaret said: “Although this has been on the cards for a long time it will be remembered with great affection, along with the nightclub above, as an iconic building in Sunderland.
“Many people who were teenagers in the 60s will have many memories of this building, either the nightclub or bowl and some both.
“I met my husband there along with many other couples in Sunderland. I have bowled in this centre since I was a 14-year-old and am now a pensioner. I’m still bowling three times a week in leagues and for my county, so you can imagine it is very dear to my heart.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that it has closed. I can’t imagine not walking up them stairs.”
An 11th-hour deal secured a new base for Excel at Sunderland Enterprise Park.
It has come as a huge relief to workers after Sunderland City Council officials thrashed out an agreement that saves their jobs.
Fears for the future of the city’s first bowling alley arose after Tesco submitted a planning application to level the site and build a new superstore and retail development in its place.
But now it seems the family-run firm will be back in business from a 19,396 sq ft unit at the 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.
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.
“They are not like members of the public. They are like friends,” he said.
“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.”
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.
* Email us your memories and photos of the Excel Bowling Alley or call Jane O’Neill on 565 8557.