Tulsa businessman arrested for arson

Monday, August 2nd 2004, 5:12 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa Police say a suspect was caught in the act of arson at the Rose Bowl Sunday night.
They arrested Michael Sparks, a competitor, who owns Mickey's Bowling Alley at Eastland Mall.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says two security guards working at a business next door are the good Samaritans in this story. They saw a man back behind the bowling alley at 7605 East 11th Street acting suspicious around midnight and called 911.

Police got to the bowling alley fast enough to catch Sparks with a canister of gasoline. The overnight fire shut down lane number 9 and did about $2,000 in damage when someone sprayed gasoline under a garage door at the back of the business.

Tulsa Police say Michael Sparks is the person who did it. They say he admitted it and said the reason was because the Rose Bowl was hurting his business, a bowling alley called Mickey's at Eastland Mall.

AMF district manager Don Grimmett: "I was shocked when I initially heard it. Then shock turned to disbelief and that turned to amazement. You read about these things happening. We were just lucky we had some good neighbors who were in the right place at the right time."

The Rose Bowl is still recovering from a fire a month ago that did $40,000 in damage. That fire damaged several lanes. The business was going through a big remodel inside and out and updating its scoring machines when the first fire happened.

Tulsa has many bowling alleys so you might wonder why pick the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is closest in proximity to Mickey’s. And, Lori Fullbright learned some of their customers had recently called the Rose Bowl, wanting to switch since they were unhappy with conditions at Mickey’s.

The Rose Bowl has new management and doesn't plan to let any of this spoil its upcoming busy season. Don Grimmett: “Just invite everybody to come out and try the new management and the great customer service we have here."

In the meantime, Sparks now faces first degree arson charges and investigators are re-examining the previous fire to see if it's related, since it also happened at the first of the month, near midnight in the back of the business.

Here's another interesting fact, Sparks' family used to own the Rose Bowl before it sold to AMF.

Lori Fullbright talked to the general manager of Mickey's; they too, are open for business.
He told her that Sparks called him Monday afternoon and was embarrassed about what happened, but said Sparks wasn't trying to burn down the business, he was simply messing with the Rose Bowl.

He said Sparks feels like the big corporately owned bowling alley is trying to force him out of business.