Conversion of Iconic L.A. Center to Bowlero Mar Vista Completed

by Bob Johnson 0

The conversion of Mar Vista Lanes in Los Angeles, into Bowlero Mar Vista is complete.

The center was built during the mid-20th century bowling boom, and featured an interior designed by Armet & Davis, a firm known for embracing the Googie style of architecture that produced such iconic Southern California coffee shops as Pann’s, Mel’s, Norm’s and Johnie’s.

Googie architecture, which was seemingly everywhere during the 1950s and 1960s, was noted for its bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, sweeping cantilevered roofs and pop culture imagery. As one preservationist has put it, “Coffee shops looked something like a ‘Jetsons’ cartoon, and bowling alleys looked like Tomorrowland.”

When Bowlmor AMF decided to remake Mar Vista Lanes, which already had lost much of its charm during a 1975 remodel, the popular Pepy’s Galley was one of the casualties (despite a petition drive to save it), as was the tiki bar-themed Makai Room.

Bowlmor AMF engaged the services of Studio Lemonade of Salt Lake City to reinvent Mar Vista for a new generation of social-oriented bowlers, and the design firm told Los Angeles magazine that they followed a “road trip to Baja” inspiration in their work. Design motifs embraced a number of 20th century icons, including Ms. Pac-Man and lava lamps.

While news of the conversion created an outcry among long-time bowlers at the center, Bowlmor AMF did include a nod to Mar Vista’s glorious past in the remodel: a tiki pole at the center’s entrance.

You can view a photo gallery of the new Bowlero Mar Vista here:

One of the few remaining Southern California bowling centers featuring Googie architecture is Linbrook Bowl in Anaheim, not far from Disneyland, which opened in 1958. You can see some of its design work here:

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.

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