Bowling Lanes Closed for New Pinsetters

A player bowls at UC Davis.
The pinsetter machines in the Memorial Union Games Area are being replaced. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The Memorial Union’s bowling lanes are closed through late September while the 1960s-era pinsetting machines are replaced with equipment that will make the lanes safer for student employees and more reliable for players.


Teams looking to defend their titles as staff bowling league champions will be able to do so this fall with the return of five separate noon-hour leagues — one for each day of the week. Details for those leagues, as well as ones for billiards, video gaming and more casual bowlers, will be announced on the Games Area’s website.

“Although they are very mechanically sound and fully operational, they are not what we would consider modern or what we can maintain with a student staff model,” said Janna Tolla, director of the Memorial Union, part of Campus Recreation.

Replacement parts are so hard to find that most need to be custom made, she said. That wasn’t a problem when the MU Games Area had a full-time mechanic, but since his retirement in 2015, that job has been performed by students. The manufacturer also no longer offers any training for the machines.

The lanes had to be temporarily closed earlier this year because of safety concerns with the pinsetting machines.

The new machines will come with more safety features that keep staff farther away from moving parts and automatically cut power if someone tries to reach into the machine while it’s in operation.

They’re made by QubicaAMF, the same company that makes the scoring system for the MU’s bowling lanes, so the two pinsetters and scoring system will integrate more closely, Tolla said. The new machines will also lead to fewer errors and stoppages in play, she said.


  • Bowling
    • Student Game Normal — $6
    • Student Game Spare Time — $3
    • Community Spare Time — $5
  • Billiards
    • Student price — $7 (up from $6)
    • Community price: $14 (up from $12)

QubicaAMF touts the new machine as the “quietest, fastest and most reliable pinspotter on the market.”

With the Games Area situated as it is in the MU basement, the old pinsetting machines will take quite the journey out of the building. They will be rolled through the tunnel that connects the MU to Lower Freeborn Hall, and from there will ride Freeborn Hall’s freight elevator to ground level.

Freeborn is slated for demolition, so now is a good time to get rid of the old pinsetters. Otherwise, the only way to get them upstairs would be to disassemble them into small pieces, Tolla said.

The old machines will be sold back to the manufacturer. The new machines will cost between $300,000 and $400,000, and to help recoup those costs, rates will increase by a dollar.

The new rates will be effective when the lanes reopen.

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