Court will decide fate of former Freeway Lanes in Jackson
Once a popular spot for Butler County bowlers, the former Freeway Lanes Bowling Alley along Route 19 in Jackson now is just a parking lot for excess inventory from Baierl Ford.
The bowling alley and its adjoining Striker's Sports Bar have long been shuttered, and the property remains mired in federal bankruptcy as rumors swirl about possible development.
On June 20, things got more complicated when two former operators of the lanes filed a federal defamation lawsuit against the head of the corporation that ran the enterprise.
James Marburger and his daughter, Carrie R. Robb, both of Evans City, claim that Robert Kennihan, president of the seven-member Zelienople Investment Corp., made false statements about them during a June 3, 2013, meeting.
Kennihan denied that.
“I'd like to see it stay as a bowling alley,” Kennihan said. “This area needs it. It's in a nice location and everything.”
A federal bankruptcy judge likely will decide the fate of the property.
James and Patti Marburger, of Evans City, claim they made more than $700,000 in loans to the business, according to federal court paperwork. Patti Marburger said the family had been involved with the business dating to the 1960s and had been managing it.
The Marburgers and several bowling alley employees are trying to force the property into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, filing their petition about a year ago.
According to court paperwork, the Marburger Farm Dairy Corp. became involved in the Zelienople Corp. in July 1968, acting as guarantor to loans by Citizens National Bank to establish and operate the bowling alley.
By 2011, according to the documents, the Marburger corporation decided the bowling alley wasn't making enough money, so the firm decided to sell it and its liquor license to recoup money on the loans. At a shareholders meeting on June 3, 2013, an agreement was reached to sell the property.
James Marburger and Robb had controlled the Zelienople Investment Corp., according to court documents, but were removed by the company's shareholders during that June meeting, with Kennihan taking over as president from Marburger.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas P. Agresti approved the sale of the bowling alley's liquor license on June 12, 2013, to Cranberry Springs Development Group 2 LLC for $250,000. That transfer, according to state records, is pending,
A hearing is scheduled in bankruptcy court for July 21, and a status conference is scheduled for Sept. 16.
Kennihan said an audit of the bowling alley's finances hasn't been completed.
Patti Marburger said her family doesn't know what will happen with the property.
“Bowling is not the best thing right now,” Patti Marburger said. “If you go to New Jersey, you can sell a bowling alley in two minutes. But around here, no.”
Kennihan of Natrona Heights, who built the alley in the 1960s, said there's been interest in the property, from car dealers to grocery chains.
“Several people want to keep it as a bowling alley. We'll find out when the time comes,” Kennihan said.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.