Go ‘Bowling’ at the Riv… While You Still Can

by Bob Johnson 0

Sin City is about to lose one of the 21 tenpin destinations listed in BJI’s May 2014 feature story titled, “3 Perfect Bowling Days in Las Vegas.”

Over the weekend, word leaked that the iconic Riviera Hotel and Casino was being sold to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which plans to demolish the resort as part of its convention center expansion dubbed the Global Business District.

RivieraAccording to sources, the Riviera is coveted because it sits halfway between the south end of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. That would make the property an ideal location for the proposed transportation center that would help funnel convention-goers staying at Strip properties to the convention center.

When the Riviera is shut down — and according to reports, it’s not if, but when — bowlers will have one fewer place to “experience” their favorite sport in Las Vegas. As was noted in BJI’s travel feature, the Riviera was home to an annex to the Pinball Hall of Fame, which featured a bowling-themed machine called “Ten-Up.”

Exactly how the Riviera, which opened in April 1955, will be taken down was not revealed. In unsentimental Las Vegas, which is constantly reinventing itself by plowing over old structures and erecting new ones, one favored method is by “implosion,” which utilizes dynamite to bring down a building quickly. You can view the Jan. 11, 2006, implosion of the legendary Showboat Hotel, Casino and Bowling Center — which was known as the Castaways during its final years — at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=881tIt2VbY8

The most recent implosion in Las Vegas took place on Feb. 10, when The Clarion was demolished to make way for what property owner Lorenzo Doumani has described as a “unique” development.

The Clarion opened in 1970, when it was known as the Royal Inn. Actress and singer Debbie Reynolds, who recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, purchased the hotel in 1992, renamed it the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel, and ran it for seven years before selling it.

When she had owned the property, Reynolds insisted that “Hollywood” be included in its name as a nod to her roots — roots that included not only the glamour of that show business town, but also occasional trips to a local bowling center.

In a 2008 interview, Reynolds explained to Backstage.com why she would be playing a two-week engagement at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.

“I was in the Valley visiting my brother, and I decided I would like to play my neighborhood,” she said. “This is where I was raised. I used to ride my bicycle to the El Portal, and I went to the Magnolia Theatre and the Magnolia Bowling Alley.”

Reynolds, now is her 80s, continues to perform, focusing primarily on her nightclub act. Last November, she performed in the showroom of the South Point resort in Las Vegas (http://www.southpointcasino.com/entertainment/entertainers/debbie-reynolds.php) on the weekend following the PBA’s 2014 World Series of Bowling, during which the new South Point Bowling Plaza was christened.

Sin City loses one iconic “bowling destination,” but gains another. It’s the Las Vegas way.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.