Monroe rallies around high school bowlers after Nortel Lanes fire

MONROE, Michigan (WTVG) - It's been four days since a fire destroyed an iconic bowling alley in Monroe.

What once was a 66 lane bowling alley with three bars and a pizzeria is now unrecognizable piles of debris. The loss of Nortel Lanes has shocked and saddened an entire community, but in this time of tragedy there is hope because of the outpouring support for those who bowled and worked there.

The day Nortel Lanes burned to the ground was supposed to be the Monroe High School Bowling Team's first meet of the season. The team lost not only their home, but all of their equipment in the blaze.

"Not many people understand how much bowling is, how much it actually means to people," said Caden Pillette. He's a senior on the bowling team. His dad is the coach of the boys team and his mom is the assistant coach for the girls.

Donors stepped up to replace the gear, and within hours the $3,000 goal was surpassed. The team now has more than enough bowling balls, bags and shoes.

List of donors:
Keith Wegner - Badger Building Systems, Lambertville
Joe Gill, Ben Torres, Chris Muzzy, Tino Amaya - State Farm, Monroe
Amaya's Fresh Mexican Grill
Scott Wiesler - Anytime Fitness, Lambertville
Andrew Gill - AGIA Insurance, Lambertville
Ralph Mahalak Jr. - Monroe Dodge Chrysler

Now, the Monroe Sports Center is the only bowling alley in town. They're taking in their competitor's leagues, working round the clock to get equipment fitted and bowling balls drilled, even hiring former Nortel employees.

"Everybody has families and Christmas, and we just want to get everybody back to work as much as possible and not have any more jobs effected," said Shane Held, owner of Monroe Sports Center.

Nortel Lanes posted this on their Facebook page the day of the fire:

"This is truly a very sad day for our employees, customers, and community. The outpouring of all the heartfelt comments and memories shared on our Facebook page have been so appreciated. We would like to thank you for your patronage and support over the years." The post concludes with "Nortel Lanes will be forever in our hearts."

This update was posted on the bowling alley's Facebook page Saturday afternoon:

"An account for Nortel employees has been set up at Monroe Bank and Trust. Anyone interested in donating to our employees can do so at any of the bank branches."

What sparked the flames is still under investigation. The Chief says determining why this bowling alley burned to the ground will be tough, and take a long time.