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Do you remember life in the fast lane at Dundee’s Megabowl?

Monifieth Swimming Club gave their members a trip to the Megabowl in 2004. Image: DC Thomson.
Monifieth Swimming Club gave their members a trip to the Megabowl in 2004. Image: DC Thomson.

The constant crack of skittles scattering sounded for two decades during the glory days of Dundee’s Megabowl.

Multi-coloured shoes, heavy balls and THAT question – bumpers up or bumpers down?

Plans to turn the former Toys R Us at the Kingsway Retail Park into a 29-lane bowling alley sparked memories of life in the fast lane at the Megabowl.

A 12-hour bowling marathon at the Dundee Megabowl raised funds for the youth development project at Ardler Complex and Ninewells breast cancer research.

The new activity centre will include what would be the first bowling alley to operate in the city since the Megabowl closed at the Stack Leisure Park in 2011.

We decided to take a trawl through the archives to remember its life and times.

Megabowl started life in 1991

The ten-pin bowling craze arrived in Dundee in the 1960s.

The Golden Pheasant Bar on Macalpine Road gave regulars the chance to enjoy a little exercise with their beer in the basement before things went mainstream.

That’s when the Skyline bowling alley on Marketgait opened, with its futuristic “control girls” at the helm in costumes straight out of Star Trek.

The Skyline Bowling Alley lanes, ball return system and scoring booths in 1965. Image: DC Thomson.

There were two sets of lanes in the Skyline, a great place for a night out featuring a pool room, a slot car racing track, a juke box and pin table.

But the boom proved short-lived.

The 1970s was a particularly difficult time for the industry, with almost two-thirds of the bowling alleys in the UK that had sprung up in the 1960s having to close.

The Skyline shutters came down and the place was eventually transformed into the students’ union of the technical college where gigs started taking place in 1976.

However, with the introduction of automated scoring systems, ten-pin bowling enjoyed a renaissance when the GX Superbowl arrived at Longtown Road in 1990.

Huge crowds gather for the opening of the old GX Superbowl at Milton of Craigie in 1990. Image: DC Thomson.

Dundee Megabowl followed in November 1991 before the £50m Stack Leisure Park opened on the site of the derelict former Camperdown Works in Lochee.

Actor Victor McGuire was the star guest on the opening night.

He was best-known for playing Jack Boswell in the TV series Bread before appearing alongside Nicholas Lyndhurst in time-travel sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart.

The Megabowl sat alongside the Odeon cinema, the Venue nightclub, Buzz Bar pub, Fatty Arbuckle’s restaurant, a Tesco supermarket, a Gala Bingo hall and a petrol station.

Actor Victor McGuire is joined by Dundee FC players and late MP Ernie Ross for the opening. Image: DC Thomson.

The Megabowl was so much more than just bowling.

It was the highlight of many a childhood, with 36 lanes of skittles and an amusement area – including a bar, pool tables, a Zapp Zone and a Wimpy restaurant – keeping people entertained.

If you’re of a certain generation, your memories of the Megabowl will be of birthday parties and gatherings.

A Wimpy burger for tea before heading to the Zapp Zone.

Perth High School pupils enjoying a game at the old Megabowl back in 2002. Image: DC Thomson.

You may also remember the lingering whiff of shoe clean spray.

It was soon Dundee’s last remaining ten-pin bowling alley.

GX Superbowl closed in November 1994, only four years after it opened, and was taken over by DIY chain Wickes which is still on the same site today.

Jerren Nixon put on his bowling shoes

The Megabowl was still proving very popular though.

Dundee United winger Jerren Nixon paid a visit in 1995 to launch a 16-stage bowling competition which was aiming to raise money to help young people.

The Trinidad and Tobago international swapped his boots for bowling shoes and played a match against local champion Romano Biondi to get things started.

He should have stuck to football!

A group of youngsters taking a break from the action at Dundee’s Megabowl in 2004. Image: DC Thomson.

The Megabowl and Zapp Zone was also hugely popular with children affected by Chernobyl, who visited Tayside annually for a recuperative holiday.

The annual visits were designed to boost their immune systems, weakened by living in a region affected by radiation from the nuclear disaster.

The Belarus kids, hosted by staff and residents from Noranside Open Prison near Forfar, screamed with delight as they knocked down the pins.

The fun day would always be followed by a Wimpy lunch.

Darien Henderson celebrated her eighth birthday with some of her classmates in 2004. Image: DC Thomson.

The Megabowl was given a £250,000 revamp at Christmas 1997, creating a further seven full-time jobs and added to the feel-good factor at the building.

Changes included the installation of new American-style pool tables and a state-of-the-art video games centre, while the present bar was removed and redesigned.

It was called McLuskie’s.

The Megabowl in Dundee proved to be a popular attraction during the holidays in 2004. Image: DC Thomson.

The Megabowl bucked the trend as business after business shut its doors at the Stack Leisure Park, including the Odeon which said its goodbyes in 2001.

The closure left the park with just the Tesco store, bingo hall and bowling alley.

The end was nigh.

Tragic loss for the bowling community

The Megabowl was among the last of the original buildings to close in July 2011.

Scotland’s top female bowler Laura Rhoney said dozens of bowlers competing in leagues and competitions in the city would now be left without nearby facilities to train.

How many people will remember the Megabowl during the 1990s and early noughties. Image: DC Thomson.

She said: “I train there three of four times a week, but the nearest bowling alley is in Dunfermline, so I will have to use that now.

“It will have a huge impact on the training that people do and the game as a whole.

“There are a lot of sports people in Dundee who use it.

“It is always busy on a Friday and Saturday night, too.

“I have been Scottish female champion for the last 13 years and a lot of that is to do with Dundee. I got my first perfect game there so I am really sad to see it closing down.

“I really hope someone will buy it over and reopen.

Staff raising funds for Comic Relief in 2003 during the glory days of the Megabowl. Image: DC Thomson.

“Dundee is losing everything and Megabowl is the kind of thing that keeps people off the streets, doing something healthy and fun.

“It is a real shame and a big loss to the city.”

Lochee councillor Tom Ferguson said the closure was devastating news.

Andrew’s memories struck a chord

Liverpool company T. J. Morris Ltd bought the site in 2012 and the derelict buildings which previously housed Fatty Arbuckle’s and the Megabowl were replaced by retailers including Home Bargains and Aldi in 2013.

The Stack turns 30 this year and it’s thriving again but there is still a sense of nostalgia for the original park and the glory days of the old Megabowl.

DC Thomson columnist Andrew Batchelor reignited plenty of those memories when he posted about the bowling alley on his Dundee Culture Twitter page.

The Megabowl and the Zapp Zone were highlights of Andrew’s childhood. Image: DC Thomson.

Andrew said: “The Megabowl was a highlight of my childhood – for the birthday parties, Zapp Zone, Wimpy and, of course, the bowling.

“I went there a lot when I was younger, as did many of my friends from school.

“It was a great time to be a kid and the Megabowl is hugely missed among my generation.”

With ten-pin bowling now returning to the city after over a decade in the wilderness, Andrew – and generations of Dundonians – will be ready to make some new memories.

The Megabowl was popular when it opened in 1991 before the alley closed 20 years later. Image: DC Thomson.