Bowling alley opens in Cherokee

A years-long effort to bring a bowling alley to Cherokee has come to an end with the opening of the 53,000-square-foot Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Sept. 1.

“Harrah’s Cherokee is extremely excited to offer this additional amenity to our existing guests and new guests alike,” said Leeann Bridges, regional vice president of marketing for Harrah’s. “This adds a whole new dimension for the growth of the business and the benefit of the tribe.”

In addition to 24 bowling lanes, four party rooms, three bars, a full-service restaurant and an entertainment stage, the new facility contains an arcade stocked with 55 interactive, state-of-the-art games.

“It’s been created in this entertainment in the round thing,” said Adam Saks, president and COO of Ultrastar. “Everything is able to be seen and interacted with from different areas. I think the guests are really going to respond well to that. I think they’re going to have so much fun not just experiencing the entertainments themselves, they’re going to be people-watching, they’re going to be seeing things going on.”

People who are 21 and older can enter the Ultrastar facility in one of two ways — through the gaming floor outside the Essence Lounge or through the main entrance from the outside. The first floor of the facility is family-friendly, including the arcade complete with a prize store to redeem points, 16 bowling lanes, two party rooms and a sit-down restaurant area that includes a bar as well. The stage is located within easy sight of any of the dining tables.

Head upstairs, and a landing featuring a few more tables offers views of the stage, the arcade and the Essence Lounge entrance. And all the way at the top is the adults-only Strikes Lounge, which includes eight bowling lanes — complete with colorful and ever-changing laser patterns — a bar and two party rooms.

For those who want to get some air, there’s another option. The spacious deck opening from the Strikes Lounge offers seating, a fireside patio, an additional bar, a TV and — perhaps best of all — a sweeping view of the mountains surrounding Cherokee.

Cherokee elders have been pushing for years to get a bowling facility, seeing the sport as enjoyable and accessible recreation for older adults. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved the project in April 2016, with ground breaking that July. Robins & Morton of Birmingham, Alabama, was the general contractor and Michigan-based Brunswick Bowling Products served as construction manager. Cornerstone Architects of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, did the design and architecture work, and Ultrastar will manage the facility.

To thank the elders for their role in bringing the project to fruition, Ultrastar hosted an Elders Day event Tuesday, Aug. 29, before opening the facility to the general public.

“We owe more to that group than to any other single group,” Saks said. “It was the elders of the community who love bowling who got together and first sat down and said, ‘We really want to bring bowling to Cherokee.’”

Ultrastar will offer bowling leagues and a 10 percent discount on admission for tribal members. Regular prices will be $4 per game with $2.50 shoes, with special discounts available Monday through Thursday.

Saks said that he expects parties, especially birthday parties, will make up a substantial portion of the business. The other Ultrastar facility he operates, located in Ak-Chin, Arizona, averages 10-14 parties in a single Saturday, with events on other days of the week as well.

The team at Cherokee got a chance to test its party-hosting skills by celebrating Saks’ daughter’s seventh birthday, just days before the grand opening.

“I do believe she approved,” Saks said. “She played her heart out. She beat me in bowling, which is a whole other story, and she had some cake. It was a night.”

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