Tulsa Man Hopes To Throw A Strike With Downtown 'Dust Bowl'

Thursday, April 7th 2011, 11:44 am
By: News On 6

Rich Lenz, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- There is still plenty of saw dust inside the Dust Bowl, the latest downtown venture by Tulsa entrepreneur Elliot Nelson. The vintage bowling alley has come a long way since construction began seven months ago.

The Dust Bowl recreates the days when wood paneling was the rage and the lanes got better with age.

"I think part of it is us trying to recapture the feel of what a bowling alley was 30 or 40 years ago, and it was the most popular sport in America," Elliot Nelson said.

"Now people use laminate lanes which is about half an inch thick - so these are three-inch thick maple lanes."

The sound of a ball rolling down those lanes – each one sounds like a strike. The lanes still need to be sanded and oiled. There are old fashioned pinsetters and scoring too.

So grab a pencil and take a refresher course on how to add up the strikes and spares.

For me, you know, bowling is about 1970s Wisconsin and this feel of getting a pitcher of Miller Beer and sitting back.

Sitting back is not something Elliot Nelson has done since 2004 when he opened his first downtown property, McNellie's. El Guapo's, Yokozuno, The Brady Tavern, Fassler's Hall and the Dilly Deli soon followed. The Dust Bowl will be his seventh downtown venture. It should be rocking and rolling by mid May.

"Now, the next piece is housing," Nelson said. "A lot of people want to see grocery stores and retail and drug stores, but we can't build those things until we get the housing."

Nelson figures a fully-integrated urban neighborhood should be flourishing in 10 to 15 years, about the time his first child goes off to college. For now, he's focused on transforming a 1938 garage into an eight-lane bowling alley – at a reported cost just show of a million dollars.

Nelson said, "71st and Mingo is a better location, more traffic, more people. There are places in town where we could do this stuff and make more money. "

But the businessman remains firm in his commitment to downtown Tulsa.

"Downtown matters," he said. "It's a neighborhood worth fighting for. It is the regional center whether you like it or not, and so for me it's been about: we need to create this, it needs to be done."

The Dust Bowl is located adjacent to the Dilly Deli and in fact, they will share a courtyard and kitchen facilities. The plan is to have a family atmosphere- no alcohol, until the early evening and that's when they'll "turn the taps on."