Fire destroys 'iconic' bowling alley in Monroe

MONROE, Mich. (WTVG) - UPDATE AS OF 12/19:

The investigation is complete and the cause is listed as "undetermined," due to the intense destruction from the fire. This was the anticipated outcome that Fire Chief Wight shared with 13abc the day of the fire.

Michigan State Police fire inspectors, the Monroe Fire Department and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concluded that the loss of the 66,000 square foot bowling alley is $8 million.

The investigation took two weeks and included employee and witness interviews, reviewing video surveillance footage from nearby businesses, and "gathering information/points of data prior to the fire," the Monroe Fire Department stated in a press release.

The investigation team spent "several days long digging through the debris to isolate a cause and origin but were unable to find anything definitive at this time," Fire Chief Wight said in a press release.
A bowling alley that has been a staple in the City of Monroe for decades was destroyed Wednesday morning after it went up in flames.

Firefighters with the City of Monroe Fire Department were called around 2:30 AM to Nortel Lanes located on Telegraph Road.

"It was engulfed when we arrived on scene," said Chief Rob Wight. "Heavy fire was in the front of the building."

Nortel Lanes was built in 1961 and has been a popular bowling alley for residents in Monroe and surrounding areas.

"It's an icon in the City of Monroe," Chief Wight said. "Unfortunately, it's a total loss and it's going to upset a lot of people in the city."

This loss is impacting generations.

"Monroe High School...all their bowling stuff was in there so the community is trying to get together to buy them bowling balls, bowling shoes for their season," said bowler Lisa Wagner.

Lisa Wagner was here just last night, a weekly ritual for twenty years.

"A league with my mom, my aunt, all of my sisters, my best friends, all of my friends," said Wagner.

Employees and bowlers gathered all day long near what was the family-favorite spot, taking it all in.

Nortel Lanes was a family affair for Theresa Thrift. She worked there for 23 years.

"My mom worked here. I worked here. My daughters work here, and my grandkids come and bowl here," said Thrift.

Chief Wight tells 13abc that no one was inside the building at the time and no injuries were reported.

According to a press release, the age and roof design of the building prohibited firefighters from entering the building to extinguish the fire. Fire officials add that the building did not have a sprinkler system.

“This is going to be a very difficult fire to investigate," Chief Wight said. "Because of the extreme conditions and extent of the fire, it will be very difficult to determine a cause.”

Frenchtown Township, Monroe Township and Berlin Township Fire Departments assisted.

Nortel Lanes will be missed by many. It's a place described as a home away from home for those who worked and bowled there.