When John Lenna says he doesn’t make a living bowling, he’s technically not lying.
Lenna does not make a living by rolling a bowling ball at pins, but to say Lenna hasn’t made a life of bowling would be incorrect. Anything you want in a life -- whether it’s finding a job, love or a hobby -- it all comes back to bowling for Lenna.
When he was around 10-years-old, Lenna, who grew up in New City, spent a good deal of time at New City Bowl, because his mother worked there and he was a member of some junior leagues. A girl named Alice also had a mother who worked at New City Bowl, but she was two years older than Lenna, so they didn’t have much interaction.
“You know how it is when you're young and there’s an age difference between boys and girls,” Lenna said. “You don’t really hang out much.”
Both went to Clarkstown South High School knowing vaguely about each other, but never really becoming close. Alice would end up working at New City Bowl holding various positions while in school and go on to run the bakery at A&P for a few years whereas Lenna became an auto mechanic. Both kept bowling.
Then, one night at The Hub, a now-closed bowling alley in Monsey, Lenna and Alice ran into each other, recognized one another from their youths spent at New City Bowl and South and caught up. Two-and-a-half years later, the two were married.
Within the next year, Alice Lenna, whose mother still worked at New City Bowl, returned to the bowling center as the assistant manager. Less than a year later, in 1988, the manger left and Alice Lenna took over as the head of the bowling center. In 1989, John Lenna left his job as an auto mechanic to work at New City Bowl as the service manager, in charge of the computers, scoring machines and lanes.
They both still hold these positions today.
“It works because she’s up front working and I’m in back working,” John Lenna said. “If we had to be in the same office all day, it might get more tense at times.”
While bowling might not be thought of as a romantic sport, New City Bowl might be something of an aphrodisiac. Not only did the Lennas first meet there, but Mike Contente, of New City, had his first date with his future wife, Penny, there. Contente said he lived in the Bronx and Penny lived in Spring Valley, so she suggested they go to New City Bowl.
“She beat me,” he said. “She’s a really good bowler.”
After they married, he moved to Rockland, and the two kept bowling together. In fact, Contente still bowls in two leagues, in the summer and the winter, and also bowls with their daughter on Sunday mornings. He said his wife had to stop bowling because of a shoulder injury.
Luckily the two couples will have their memories of the very beginnings of their lives together at New City Bowl, because soon part of it might be unrecognizable. Alice and John Lenna, who have since moved to Garnerville, are gearing up for the biggest renovation of New City Bowl under their reign. Starting this week, the bowling center will undergo some major renovations in the bowlers’ area, including a new scoring system that gives each lane its own flat screen TV.
“It’s very interactive,” Alice Lenna said. “There’s a lot to play around with, and it even has some games.”
Other than that, Alice Lenna said the bowlers’ area is getting all new, custom furniture.
“It’s going to make it a more comfortable place to hang out,” John Lenna said. “It’s going to have a really cutting-edge look. It’s not going to look like your grandfather’s bowling alley, or like something you’d see on The Flintstones.”
Alice Lenna said there are other changes in store, but that she wants to keep some secret for when the "new" New City Bowl is all set. Not, however, when it reopens.
And that’s because New City Bowl won’t close at all during the renovations. Some of the work is being done at night, after the bowling center has closed for the evening. Other renovations are being done on only select lanes, which will allow other lanes to stay open so people can bowl and summer leagues can continue.
Alice Lenna said while there are leagues during the summer, it picks up in the fall, so they try to do all renovating during the summer. Lenna also said they try to fix or repair something every year, but this year they’re doing a bunch of projects at once, the most they’ve ever undertaken at one time.
Alice Lenna said they started discussions about the renovations back in February.
“It was fun coming up with the plans and picking out the fabric,” she said. “Now we just need to put everything in.”
The new scoring systems should be set up within the next two weeks, she said. And the rest of the renovations should be complete by mid- to late-August.
“It’s a happy place to work. People come here to unwind and have fun,” Alice Lenna said. “We think the changes are going to help that.”
She also said that it seems most people are really excited about the renovations. Contente said he would still go to New City Bowl even if they weren’t planning on renovating.
“As long as I can walk, I’m going to bowl,” he said. “It’s a nice touch to modernize, though.”
Nancy Fontana of New City, said she’s really looking forward to seeing a newer bowling center. She’s at New City Bowl a few times a week with her two kids, Warren Collins Jr., 12, and Meagan Collins, 14, who are both in leagues.
“We even come some days when they don’t have league matches,” Fontana said.
Fontana said Warren Collins Jr. is the star bowler of the family. He said his high score is 235, which he reached a few months ago. He said he likes competing in tournaments, and enjoy bowling on teams as well as by himself.
Meagan has been bowling for a little more than a year, and actually just bowled her high score, 197, last week. She said her favorite part of going to New City Bowl is hanging out with her friends, and some of the different events they have for families like Disco Bowl and a New Year’s Eve event with unlimited bowling until around 1 a.m.
The socializing is John Lenna’s favorite part of bowling, as well.
“I wish more people would do it just for that,” he said. “Being competitive and involved with leagues are great and a lot of fun, too. But sometimes it’s just better to go hang out with some friends.”