SHERIDAN — After 60 years in Sheridan, Cloud Peak Lanes will receive a birthday present courtesy of new owner Troy Cochran: an extreme makeover.
Technically, the changes to the old standby have been in the works since Cochran, who also owns Kona Ice of Big Horn, purchased the lanes back in November 2019. But as the bowling alley enters its sixth decade of life, Cochran is dedicated to transforming it into a vital community space while also keeping old traditions alive.
“When this came up for sale, I was the only one who was going to keep it a bowling alley,” Cochran said. “Everybody else wanted to turn it into a parking lot or a bank. I just felt that, after 60 years of bowling, it would be a shame to lose that. If you go back and look at papers from the turn of the century, bowling was being written about almost daily. It was a big part of the community, and that needs to continue.”
Cochran recently implemented his first major change at the lanes with the purchase of a new digital scoring system that not only scores your bowling, but also allows you to order food and drink. And that’s just one of his big plans for the future, ranging from the creation of a beer garden to improved food service to a refurbishing of the arcade area.
The idea, Cochran says, is to create a fun family experience that starts with bowling but doesn’t end there.
“We sell bowling, but we also sell an experience,” Cochran said. “If we can give people a fun experience and a fun time, it doesn’t matter if it’s bowling or they’re sitting outside enjoying our view of the mountains. We can, and should, cater to different groups of people. We are trying to modernize it into a family entertainment center and community center rather than just league bowling.”
Events are also a big part of the lanes’ evolution, according to event planner Mikkayla DeBolt. In recent months, the lanes have offered an outdoor movie cosponsored by the Downtown Sheridan Association and a haunted house.
“We are hoping to do more of that as health concerns go away a bit,” DeBolt said. “We want to let people know that we’re not just a bowling alley. You can come here and do other things if you’re not a bowler.”
While the bowling alley has seen an increase in open bowling under the new ownership, it has also seen a drop-off in some league bowling, Cochran said. While Cloud Peak Lanes is still dedicated to providing a great bowling league experience, some leagues have been a little resistant to the facility’s new direction, Cochran said.
“I think the worry from the league bowlers’ standpoint is ‘What is going to happen to this place I love?’” Cochran said. “But I think those that have stuck around have liked the changes and been excited about the improvements. And, among the general public, there is a huge acceptance and excitement. We are seeing new and different faces every weekend.”
Cochran said he remains committed to providing a quality bowling experience at the lanes, and he is working to ensure all 20 lanes are fully operational in the near future. Currently, five lanes are under repair.
As with many businesses, Cloud Peak Lanes has spent the last year contending with the unexpected hurdle of COVID-19 health concerns and restrictions, Cochran said.
“In hindsight, this might not have been the best time to buy a bowling alley,” Cochran said with a laugh. “Usually, I have a pretty good business intuition, but this one caught me by surprise. But business has been fine regardless. It isn’t what it could be, but you could say that for every place in town that isn’t the Home Depot.”
While the Cloud Peak Lanes team is dedicated to providing fun experiences for both league bowlers and families, they are equally concerned about protecting the health of visitors during the pandemic, Cochran said. Luckily, bowling lends itself to social distancing.
“We do our very best to space out the tables and the lanes, and we clean after every group leaves,” Cochran said. “It’s been an adjustment in some ways, but I do feel like social distancing has been built into this sport to begin with. Everybody knows that only one person is allowed on the approach at a time, so as long as they’re doing it right, there shouldn’t be a lot of people up there at the same time.”
Whether creating more options for families or working to improve the experience for league bowlers, Cochran said his team was focused on providing quality service to everyone who visited the lanes.
“We don’t care who you are — whoever walks through that door, our job is to make sure you enjoy your time here,” Cochran said.