Portland’s bowling alley will soon have new lanes.

Portland City Council at its meeting Monday approved a seven-year loan of $50,000 to go toward a cosmetic and operational overhaul of Rollin J Lanes.

Council also voted against amending the city’s payroll to possibly allow a one-time stipend to Portland firefighters and police officers.

Employees Tammy and David Jellison Jr. bought what was formerly known as The Brown Bowl at 1616 N. Meridian St., in June.

The Jellisons, joined by David Jellison Sr., went before council and the city’s economic development income tax (EDIT) advisory committee Monday to request a $75,000 loan for the purchase of synthetic lanes, operational machines and more needed equipment from a bowling alley that is closing in Gas City.

“It’s not an easy time for bowling alleys,” council president Kent McClung said, noting the industry’s financial struggles in recent years and the coronavirus pandemic, which forced alleys to close in the spring and possibly could again with the recent rise in cases.

With a loan, Tammy Jellison said the bowling alley could compete against nearby alleys in Berne, Fort Recovery and Celina, Ohio, all of which had taken a lot of the alley’s customers in recent years.

The loan will allow the Jellisons, who renamed The Brown Bowl to Rollin J Lanes after they bought it, to replace its aging wood lanes with more durable synthetic lanes, add an arcade and hire more employees.

“We’re a family owned business and we’re for bringing families together,” Tammy Jellison said.

Terry and Jennifer Vaughn, the owners of the closing Gas City bowling alley known as Victory Lanes, live in Dunkirk and agreed to discount the equipment’s price to have it available in Jay County, Tammy Jellison said.

Half of the loan, which has zero payments required until 2023, will be forgiven if the Jellisons invest $25,000 of their own money into the bowling alley, employ four full-time and six part-time employees and submit quarterly updates to the city and Jay County Development Corporation and an annual update to the council.

At least $18,000 would have to be spent to renovate and keep the wooden lanes, Tammy Jellison said, and even more money would be needed to repair the alley’s current ball return system, which is 59 years old.

The operational system from Gas City is only 15 years old and would be included with the purchase in addition to new electronic equipment.

Tammy Jellison said they would likely approach First Bank of Berne, which holds the Rollin J Lanes mortgage, for a loan to fund the rest of the money it needs for the bowling alley’s upgrades.

The Jellisons said they have a target opening date with new lanes and equipment of Aug. 30 and will stay open year-round.
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