Plaza Lanes burns down in accidental fire


Chantelle Foster

The Plaza Lanes building the day after the fire. The ATF determined the cause of the fire to be completely accidentally.

Nick Irwin, Online Editor

The Des Moines Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at Plaza Lanes at 5:10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 18. The flames were initially reported to be under control with the only visible smoke coming from the roof. Soon after, the flames engulfed the building and caused the dome roof to collapse.

Randy Thompson, the owner of the business, vowed to rebuild the bowling alley in a public statement the afternoon of the fire. After a three day investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Firearms and Explosives, the fire’s cause was determined to be purely accidental in nature.

Morgan Wolfe, ’19, is the niece of the current owner. Although the owner is extended family to Wolfe, Wolfe’s entire family is involved in the business “Most of my moms side of the family works at or has been employed at Plaza in the past,” Wolfe said. “Bowling itself is a family tradition that will continuously be passed on all because of Plaza Lanes.”

Plaza Lanes was a place everyone called home and where everyone gathered. Staff and bowlers alike at Plaza Lanes are family.

— Xan Taylor, girls' varsity bowling coach

Though Wolfe awoke to numerous texts from her family members wanting to make sure she was safe, it took her a while to begin to grasp what was going on. “I could see the smoke from miles away, and it was absolutely unbelievable,” Wolfe said. “It all felt like a nightmare; It was a family legacy, icon and heritage just burning down in front of my eyes.”

Many people around the community shared a similar reaction. The fire came as a shock to the bowling team. “The morning of Dec. 18 will forever be in my mind,” Girls’ varsity bowling coach Xan Taylor said. “I saw something that took days to truly comprehend.”

Plaza Lanes was a bowling alley to many, but a second home to many others. “I can definitely say my life will never be the same,” Wolfe said. “My dad met my mom at Plaza Lanes, and proposed to her there as well, and I have met so many of my best friends from bowling at Plaza. ”

The bowling team is also struggling with the loss of Plaza Lanes. “I grew up with Plaza, so to hear that it’s burned down after being in there just last week is hard to process.” Chantelle Foster, ’19 said. “I have so many memories from growing up there, spending summers there and going to state twice there.”

The bowling team had spent countless hours at Plaza Lanes, even outside of practice and meets. “Plaza Lanes was a place everyone called home and where everyone gathered,” Taylor said. “Staff and bowlers alike at Plaza Lanes are family.”

As Plaza Lanes grew to be the bowling team’s second home, they began to store personal medals and equipment in the building. They had no intention of leaving, Plaza Lanes was just going to be part of their routine. “Plaza is where I started my bowling career, and I was planning on just continuing my career there forever,” Foster said.

After countless meets at Plaza Lanes, the bowling team is now bowling at Warrior Lanes in Waukee. Bowling at the new alley is a foreign experience for everyone. “The bowling team has had a difficult time because Plaza Lanes is their home and where they grew up, so there are many special memories for all of them from bowing bumper and junior league to bowing for the high school team and being a part of the Iowa high school regional and state tournaments,” Taylor said.

The current plan for Plaza Lanes is to be rebuilt with new additions such as laser tag, an escape room, and a bigger arcade. “Although it’s great that we are rebuilding, it is heartbreaking that the alley will never be the same as it used to be to me and my family,” Wolfe said.

For Wolfe and her family, the time of the year could not be more unfortunate, since Wolfe is reminded of all the Christmases she has spent at Plaza Lanes in the past. “Every year after the Christmas party was over, I would stay late at the alley with my cousins and it was a tradition for us to just blast our favorite music, turn on laser lights, walk on the lanes without the oil, and just have fun, since we would basically of the whole entire alley to ourselves,” Wolfe said. “It was definitely my best memory that took place there.”