A Visit to Maple Hall, Downtown Knoxville’s Basement Bowling Alley

In The Daily Dumpster Blog by Josh Wittleave a COMMENT

Ed. Note: Meet our new intern, Josh Witt! We’re sending him out to do things that are fun since we’re usually too busy working. This week, he got to go bowling. Here’s his report. 

Gay Street has something new. No, it’s not another restaurant. It’s not another store. It’s a new activity—something downtown Knoxville has been in need of. Nearly a week ago, the Maple Hall bowling alley opened its doors to the public after nearly four years in development.

Why did it take so long for this breath of fresh air to arrive downtown? Before Maple Hall could open, an extensive renovation had to be completed on the historic J.C. Penney Building under which it resides. The upstairs area needed extensive work—condos were opened, and restaurants Babalu Tacos & Tapas and Archers BBQ were opened just above the alley.

“We were last on the list, and then here we are. But the building took a lot of work,” says Gina Truitt, Maple Hall’s general manager.

Maple Hall has a lot to offer beyond its 11 lanes of bowling. It has a stage, a bar, a dining area, and plenty of casual seating where you can watch others bowl. Two of its lanes are in a private room for larger groups. Every lane gets a server and they have a good variety of food and craft cocktails (including non-alcoholic ones). The menu is more upscale than you would expect for a bowling alley—small but refined, with appetizers, sandwiches, and stacks of fries. They’re at a price you’d expect to see at an average restaurant downtown

“It’s still casual bowling food, but it’s delicious,” Truitt promises. When I visited, I tried the pretzels and beer cheese, which you can find many places around town, and I thought it was excellent.

But be prepared to pay a little bit more than you may be used to for bowling. Pricing here is unconventional: You pay for lanes, not per person, and the rate is per hour, not per game. For one lane for an hour, it’s $20 on weekdays. If you bring the maximum of six people for a game, that can become about $4 per person. You’ll also need shoes, which are $3.50 to rent. Just make sure you remember socks, or you’ll need to get those, too. 

“We’re all excited about giving downtown something else to do besides eat and drink,” Truitt says.

And Maple Hall’s bowling isn’t just unique for downtown—its rustic feel and high-tech equipment makes it stand out from Knoxville’s other bowling alleys. Being able to punch in names and select the type of game I wanted to play on a kiosk was great. The couches at each lane are comfortable and the tabletops made of old bowling lanes or concrete add to its quirky atmosphere. There might still be some technical issues to iron out, though—over the course of one hour of bowling, my group of three was stopped three times when the pinsetter would not work correctly. That many stops can seriously cut into your hour of time.

Meanwhile, Maple Hall has plans for expansion. Truitt says that in about three months, they will open an extra room upstairs with games like skeeball and shuffleboard, and they’ll also open their own area on the promenade out back as a “casual hangout place.” 

You can find Maple Hall downtown at 414 South Gay St., open on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. After 9 p.m. it’s 21+ only.

DSC09118sJosh Witt

Josh is a sophomore at Pellissippi State Community College. He likes video games, movies, TV, and Knoxville! In his spare time, he returns to mentor his former high school robotics team at the L&N STEM Academy.

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