Bowl-Hi competes with corporate businesses


(A. Wong).

Adam Reckamp

Donald Zielinski sits at the counter and looks over at his bowling alley, Bowl Hi-Lanes. He hears the crash and crack of the white pins with the thin red stripe in the middle being violently knocked down. He hears the thuds and whooshes of a heavy bowling balls flying down each of the 12 smooth wooden lanes. He hears rock and roll music coming from one of the many live bands playing on Saturday nights. He hears laughter coming from the many families enjoying themselves. As the owner of Bowl-Hi Lanes, these are sounds Zielinski has heard all his life.

(A. Wong).
(A. Wong).

Huntley Bowl-Hi Lanes is a family-owned and operated bowling alley on Route 47 in Huntley. The original alley was built in 1957. Zielinski’s father Lenny purchased the place in 1972 and Donald became the owner and primary operator in the late ‘80s.
Zielinski’s son, Daniel, is the main operator of Bowl-Hi Lanes now. Zielinski runs the alley with his family and another employee named Matt.
“My son Danny comes in and does 80 hours a week. I’m down to about 30 hours a week.”
He puts in a lot of time here. Being a family business, I got both my daughters working here too; everybody takes turns running the bowl counter, bartending, giving lessons. I have a pro that comes in that sells bowling balls, gives lessons and runs a junior league,” said Zielinski.
Bowl-Hi Lanes is one of the few small businesses in Huntley and has been a fixture in the town since 1972. It is a great place where friends can relax, meet up, and have fun bowling. It helps many smaller local bands showcase their talents, as there is a live band playing at the alley most Sundays.
“We try to go for a family atmosphere and league bowling. We do a lot of Sun City leagues, once-a-month leagues where people can come out and enjoy themselves,” said Zielinski.
Bowl-Hi Lanes is more than just a bowling alley; it is an integral part of the community. Zielinski gives back to the community by hosting fundraisers and charity events.
“I think the biggest thing that I get enjoyment from is that we help the community. We do a lot of fundraisers here at our bowling alley. We just had the little league teams here, that was good. We also had the Fire Department. They raised $13,000 to buy jackets for people in need of them,” Zielinski said.
The establishment of bigger, corporate bowling alleys such as Brunswick Zone XL has been tough competition for the smaller, local bowling alleys. Zielinski sees his alley and bigger commercial centers as two completely different kinds of bowling alleys.
“The bigger centers are really putting a grip on a lot of the little centers because they can offer more. It’s hard to compete, especially for the little kids. They have the laser tag and game rooms. They are trying to do more of Chuck E’ Cheese with bowling. We are more of a bowling center with other entertainment. Our main thing is bowling.”
Bowl-Hi Lanes has hosted the biggest singles and doubles tournament in the Midwest since 2000, a tournament that brings people in from all over the country to compete. There is a $50,000 prize fund and it is an all-amateur tournament where each bowler bowls six games. The tournament runs from February through May on weekends.
Zielinski’s best bowling memory was when he bowled a perfect 300 two years ago, a feat he has been unable to replicate. His favorite non-bowling memory was when he hosted an outdoor concert in the bowling alley’s parking lot.
Bowl-Hi Lanes also is the home alley of the Huntley High School bowling team. Zielinski hopes that more high school kids try bowling.
“The main thing I want to tell high school kids is that if you haven’t tried bowling before or you want to do something competitive, sign up for the high school bowling team and give it a try. Not everyone can play football or basketball. It gives a different endeavor for people to play a sport. If you haven’t tried it, come out and try it.”