On Sunday, Dec. 2, the Ventura Bowling Center (VBC) shut its doors forever. Patrons bowled their last games, taking home relics of the kitschy bowling house to remind them of the past 55 years of strikes, gutter balls, birthday parties and whatever else may have occurred at the Thompson Boulevard location.

“I’m really sorry to be leaving here. Some of us have been doing this league for 22 years,” said Steve Bailey during the VBC’s last night of the Gold Coast Bowling League.

The bowling alley was originally a grocery store, and in 1957 it became Poinsettia Bowl. Kathy Higgins bought the bowling alley in 1995, and renamed it Ventura Bowling Center. But Higgins had been operating the facility on a month-to-month lease for the past seven years, and when she got word from the property owner that a new venture called Discovery, advertised as a boutique bowling facility, would be moving in, it was only a matter of time before Higgins said goodbye to her establishment.

“I cried for three hours when I first got the notice,” said Higgins. “I wish the new owners the best of luck.”

That would be twins Jeremy and Joshua Pemberton. From 2008 to 2010, the Pemberton brothers, through their production company Twiin Productions, put on the West Beach Music and Arts Festival in Santa Barbara. While their résumés, posted on discoveryvenues.com, boast that they grew annual revenues/attendance an average of 315 percent during the span of the festival, Twiin Productions filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy just weeks after the 2010 festival, and creditors went unpaid. A news release from Twiin Productions blamed the city’s “bureaucratic obstacles” for making the festival unprofitable.

This past September, the Pembertons signed a 10-year lease to bring their new boutique bowling concept to Ventura, and on Tuesday, Dec. 4, interior demolition began. According to its website, Discovery will feature nine bowling lanes, billiards, shuffleboard, lounge seating, giant projection screens running sports and surf videos, local artwork, a horseshoe bar utilizing reclaimed wood from old lanes, a locally sourced menu, local and regional micro-brews, a private VIP room, VIP lanes and a 160-capacity banquet room.

The bowling lanes will use energy-efficient string pinsetters, which means league play will not be sanctioned by the U.S. Bowling Congress.

When asked about the venue’s weathered location on Thompson Boulevard, Jeremy, in an e-mail, replied, “We love our Midtown neighborhood and feel that Discovery can serve as a foundation and catalyst for the neighborhood to reach its potential.” He added that they chose Ventura because of its “quintessential, California sea-side community,” which has the “ideal market for Discovery Venues to launch its first venue.”

He said the venue is funded by a combination of debt and investor equity financing, and he expects Discovery to be open by spring of 2013.

The Pembertons have added an impressive management team, which includes Mark Jaffe, former CEO and president of Walt Disney Records, listed as Discovery’s director of business development. 

To learn more about the new bowling center, visit www.discoveryvenues.com.