Burnsville Bowl finally finds a buyer

Tri-State Bobcat of Burnsville plans to move from its current Highway 13 location to the old — and vacant — Burnsville Bowl, also on Highway 13. (Photo by John Gessner)

Tri-State Bobcat plans to relocate from another Burnsville location

Bobcats will replace bowling balls under an equipment dealer’s plan to relocate to the long-vacant Burnsville Bowl property at 1200 E. Highway 13.

Tri-State Bobcat plans to move from its current Burnsville location on the northeast corner of Highway 13 and County Road 5. The company sells Bobcat-brand equipment and other brands used in  construction, landscaping, agriculture and grounds maintenance.

City officials are pleased to see a local business expand in Burnsville  while reclaiming an eyesore with a sea of empty parking.

“We’re just excited to see them revamp the place,” Economic Development Coordinator Skip Nienhaus said.

Built in 1968, the former bowling alley and lounge went from recreational landmark and hopping nightspot to white elephant, closing in July 2010. Then-owner Bob Hatten tried but failed to sell the business, which then reverted to bank ownership.

Tri-State Bobcat received City Council approvals Dec. 17 to allow the new use, which will include outdoor equipment sales and storage. The business also sells parts and services equipment. It has a purchase agreement to buy the 4.4-acre property.

Company President Bill Quirk couldn’t be reached for comment. But he told the council Dec. 17 that Burnsville Bowl is familiar to Tri-State customers who ask about the company’s pending move.

“We’ve been located in Burnsville for 28 years now,” Quirk said. “We’ve outgrown our facility and we want to move. And we found a facility that’s close by and fits our needs and our growth for the future.

“And one of the things we liked about the building was, it’s sort of famous  — it’s Burnsville Bowl. If you mention Burnsville Bowl to just about anybody, they’ve been there and they’ve enjoyed the time they’ve spent there and they have fond memories of it.”

But Quirk couldn’t convince the council to let him keep the towering Burnsville Bowl sign facing Highway 13. Quirk said the sign is an iconic marker of the site’s history, and he’d like to replace “Burnsville Bowl” with his company logo. But the tripod-mounted pylon sign violates Burnsville’s modern zoning standards, which limit pylons  on that site to 24 feet in height and 75 square feet.

Quirk will work with city staff on a plan to bring the sign into compliance.

“You say this is an icon of Burnsville? Not so much,” Council Member Mary Sherry told Quirk.  “Maybe back in 1976 when I moved here, but not anymore. I’d like to see you replace it with a nice sign that truly complements what you’re proposing to do with this building.”

The new site will be the flagship store and corporate headquarters for Tri-State, which also has locations in Little Canada and Hudson, Wis.

The company plans to build office and conference room space inside the  28,560-square-foot building, as well as an indoor showroom, parts storage and a mechanical shop.

“The size of the building (and storage yard) will allow the applicant to grow and expand over time,” said a city staff report. The external color scheme will include orange and grey.
Colorful past

Burnsville Bowl did find a suitor after it closed. Commercial Bank sold it to the former owners of Mattie’s Lanes in South St. Paul, who even obtained a liquor license in November 2010.

But the new bowling operation never got off the ground, and the property reverted again to bank ownership.

The nightclub at Burnsville Bowl had a colorful and sometimes checkered history. It changed with the times, from disco in the 1980s to live rock bands. The club was renamed Hot Shots in 1989, which lasted for about a decade before it was rechristened as the 1200 Club and the 12th Avenue Lounge.

The nightclub also got the business in hot water with police and nearby residents in the Itokah Valley Townhomes, who in June 2010 asked that the liquor license not be renewed.

Police said the 1200 Club had averaged 100 police calls a year over the last three years. Frustration felt by police and City Council members boiled over after an early-morning fight on March 4 ended with a shot being fired from a sport-utility vehicle in the parking lot. There had been another gunfire incident in January. No one was hurt in the incidents, which further tarnished the 1200 Club’s reputation.

The March 4 shooting had followed a twice-monthly Wednesday hip-hop event at the club.  The club had been sending a bus to Minneapolis to pick up patrons for the hip-hop night, which featured a DJ. It ended that practice, and eventually abandoned hip-hop Wednesdays altogether.

Frustrated council members renewed Burnsville Bowl’s annual liquor license in June 2010 but tacked on a three-month review clause with instructions that the club control unruly patrons.