Fleetway is an entertainment complex located in the neighbourhood of Proudfoot in London, Ontario. Founded in 1959 as a 24 lane 5-pin bowling alley, Fleetway has since expanded its operations to include a wide variety of entertainment options for families and working groups. Located in an up-and-coming neighbourhood of London, Fleetway is an entertainment centre for the entire city.
The History of Bowling
The heart of Fleetway’s operation has been, since its inception at the end of the Fifties, bowling. Bowling is an old, old game, and one of the most recognizable sports in the Western imagination. The Egyptians bowled, using grain husks bound in leather and stitched with string. The Romans did too; when they weren’t busy conquering Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, the Roman Legions played a bowling game that added more strategic placing of rocks instead of knocking things over. This would eventually become the Italian game of bocce ball. The Germans made a religious ritual out of it; the targets were heathens, and the ball was the Gospel, and in the act of bowling the bowler achieved a cleansing of their sins. Most people dropped the religious ideals, however, and kept the game itself. It became so popular that it attracted the attention of local governments. Berlin and Cologne had to pass laws in 1325 limiting the size of public bets on bowling games, since people were getting outlandish with the amount of money changing hands. In 1366, King Edward III of England banned bowling because it was too much of a distraction; rather than training on stout English longbows that would be the key to their victory over the French, English soldiers were too busy bowling. In 1455 the English (who had since come around on legally allowing bowling) came up with the brilliant idea of putting roofs over bowling lanes, which meant people could bowl at any time, even when it was raining or snowing. The Germans adapted this idea with gusto, attaching bowling places (kegelbahns) to taverns and inns. Beer and bowling go hand in hand, after all, as every bowling alley I’ve ever been to has been a testament to.
Henry VIII, King of England, tried to make it so that only the wealthy could bowl; he cranked up the price of running establishments where bowling was played and fenced off areas where bowlers had created green spaces to play on. Martin Luther, like many Germans then and now, thoroughly enjoyed the sport of bowling; the Protestant reformer set the number of pins at nine (or so legend would have it). Previous to his time, bowlers had used anywhere from three to seventeen pins; from the Reformation onward, people would eventually settle on nine as the standard number. When the Spanish Armada approached on England, looking to start trouble, Sir Francis Drake insisted he had time to finish his game of bowling before sailing out to defeat them. James I of England tried to ban the game altogether, as did his successor Charles I; the proclamation banning the game was publicly burned by the Puritan Parliament in the midst of the English Civil War. The growth of the New World as a destination for settlers brought all of the old European games; the English and German colonists brought bowling along with them, and North America took to it as much as the Old World had. The first indoor bowling alley, as we know them today, was opened in 1840 in New York City; the next year, Connecticut had such a problem with people betting on bowling that they banned it outright. The law specifically banned “nine pin bowling”, however, so bowlers added a pin and made it ten pin bowling. Americans advanced the sport as much as anyone, although the first international bowling conferences were held in Scotland.
10 Pin Bowling
Ten pin bowling was a purely American development, though. Nine pin bowling uses a ball without holes, and lighter pins that are attached by strings. Ten pin bowling features the iconic three-finger bowling ball, where holes are drilled in to accommodate the bowler’s fingers; the pins are also quite a bit heavier, and in the earlier days needed to be reset by hand. The Americans eventually exported ten pin bowling back to Europe, although it required the presence of piles of Americans in Europe during the Second World War to really fully introduce the variant. The need to hire someone to set the pins after every bowl was eliminated shortly after this, in 1952, when American Machine and Foundry of Brooklyn began selling the Pinsetter machine, which would automatically reset the pins each time. By the 1960s there were bowling leagues everywhere with enough people living to make it worthwhile, and championships were held on network television. Three days after the assassination of President John F Kennedy, Sports Illustrated published an article claiming that the athletes making the most money were not baseball stars but in fact professional bowlers, whose top tier regularly split $1 million per year in prizes from championships. The sport entered the Summer Olympics in 1988 as a demonstration sport and was introduced into the Pan-Am Games in 1991.
Pin bowling as it’s known, to differentiate it from lawn bowling – comes in a few varieties, which change the ball and the pins. Ten pin bowling is, again, the most popular form of the sport in North America, featuring a ball with finger holes and heavier pins. Nine pin bowling still exists (no longer banned in Connecticut), as does candlepin bowling, a style where the pins are tall and thin, the ball is very light, and knocked-over pins are not removed after the bowler takes their turn. A variety that is popular mostly in Canada is five pin bowling. Five pin bowling was developed in Toronto in 1909 by Thomas Ryan, whose customers complained that ten pin bowling was too much work. Mr. Ryan whittled the pins down to three-quarters of their size, and offered a small hard-rubber ball to bowl them with. Today the pin set is the same, although the balls are made of a similar material to ten pin bowling balls.
Fleetway Bowling & Activities
Fleetway offers facilities for both five and ten pin bowling, with 44 lanes in total. You can rent a lane for $25/hour Monday through Friday during the day, with the price rising to $29 per hour on the weekend. Evening bowling is slightly more, with a rate of $29 after 5 PM Monday through Thursday and $34 Friday through Saturday. Sunday evenings, when available, are much lower, at $21 per hour. On Tuesday and Sunday nights you can get an hour of bowling, a large pizza, and a pitcher of beer for $50. In all situations, renting bowling shoes is extra; adult shoes carry a rental fee of $3.75 and children’s shoes are available for a rental fee of $2.75. If regular bowling isn’t quite your speed, Fleetway also offers psychedelic glow-in-the-dark bowling on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoons. If it’s a more organized, competitive experience you’re after, Fleetway features 10 pin bowling leagues in both the daytime and at night. The leagues are fully certified by the Canadian Tenpin Federation, and leagues run from September to April every year. Five pin bowlers can also join the Ontario 5 Pin Bowler’s Association, for a nominal fee.
Kid’s Play Centre
There’s more to Fleetway than just bowling, of course. The newest addition to the Fleetway complex is the Fleetway Kid’s Play Centre, which opened in the summer of 2018 and is one of the largest indoor play complexes in all of Ontario. It looks massive when you walk into the room, and it seems to offer a little bit of everything at once: tunnels, slides, rope climbing, pirate ships. The Fleetway Kid’s Play Centre features a lot, including: shark tank pendulum walk; gator pit obstacle room with hand rings; three huge slides topping 13.5 feet in height (plus more slides, naturally); a tube climber that you can climb both up and over; monkey punching bags; and a toddler-friendly area that features a moon climber and a slide. There’s enough to do that you’ll need to come back often so your children can fully explore everything that there is on offer there. Luckily there’s a place for adults to sit and watch the entire area: cameras are wired through it and they output to television displays in the seating area. Children aged four through twelve get a full day’s pass for $10.95, and children under four have a reduced rate of $6.95. Don’t forget to bring socks, though, as it’s a shoe-free zone.
Glow in the Dark Mini-Putt
In addition to their far-out and groovy psychedelic glow-in-the-dark bowling experience, Fleetway also offers glow-in-the-dark indoor golfing, which is a mini-putt adventure that you have to check out at least once. In addition to the basic fun of mini-golf, the scene-setting is top notch: you’ll golf under the sea, through a dense jungle, and into a world that time forgot, full of dinosaurs. A round of 18 holes is $10.95 except on Sunday evenings, when the price drops to $8.95. If you’re into golf, crazy visuals, or a combination of the two, it’s well worth heading down to Fleetway to check it out.
Fleetway also features an arcade, the Playdium Lite Games Room. This section is full of arcade games of all types, accommodating a wide variety of player ages and skill levels. Like all good modern arcades, the Playdium Lite Games Room has done away with tokens or tickets, putting all of the points you’ve won onto handy reusable magnetic stripe cards. A variety of prizes are available to trade your arcade points in for. Fleetway also features a billiards room, which has fourteen professional-grade Boston pool tables. Table time costs $9 per hour during the day and $15 per hour in the evening.
Food & Beverage
What about food and drink between rounds of bowling? Fleetway features two choices when it comes to beating hunger. On one hand, there’s the on-site Dairy Queen, featuring their well-known and well-loved collection of treats both hot and cold. What’s better to beat the summer heat than an ice cream cone and a game or two of bowling, or a round of mini-golf? The Dairy Queen on site at Fleetway is a fully integrated part of the complex, meaning you can bring your ice cream or your burgers right to the lane, so you can eat while you bowl.
Another option is Pizza Projekt, an independently owned on-site pizza joint, where you can get traditional bowling fare: wings and beer, pizza, nachos, or a wealth of appetizers like deep fried pickles, house battered cauliflower bites, or homemade mac and cheese. Pizza Projekt has a variety of specialty pizzas to choose from, including a margherita with buffalo mozzarella, the Dolce Estate (which features pears, gorgonzola, prosciutto, walnuts, and honey), and the French Connection, which comes with mozzarella, gorgonzola, Montreal smoked meat, smoked bacon and caramelized onions as toppings. You can bring beer or wine from the restaurant to the lanes as well, which is the perfect complement for bowling.
Group Celebrations & Packages
Kids have been having their birthday parties at Fleetway for a long time now, and Fleetway now offers a convenient package to help you more completely plan your child’s birthday party. Each package costs $14 per child and covers a one-hour activity and one hour in the shared party room with reserved seating. For $75, you can make that an hour in a private party room that holds up to 20. The one hour activity can be five or ten pin bowling, which includes the shoe rental for all participants; one hour of glow golf (about enough time for 18 holes), or one hour in the Kid’s Play Centre. You can add food on to that as well: from Dairy Queen for $4.50 per child, or pizza and drinks from Pizza Projekt. In addition to children’s birthday parties, Fleetway offers group rates for school trips, or for corporate events. Workplace parties always go better with bowling, after all.