ARLINGTON, TEXAS • The curator of the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame wants people to know her museum exists.
There is good reason for confusion. Almost three years have passed since the 10-pin museum packed up and left its perch in the downtown shadows of Busch Stadium for the suburban sprawl of Arlington, Texas. The operation, which was shut down for about 18 months during the move, now sits close to Rangers Ballpark.
"Hardly anybody knows we're here," said Kelli Thomerson, the curator.
St. Louis lost the museum to free agency. The bowling hall, which shared space with the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum, had been in discussions to move to Ballpark Village, the entertainment district planned for the site of the old Busch Stadium. Instead, it accepted an invitation to share a building in Arlington with two other bowling institutions.
The museum sold its building in St. Louis to the Cardinals organization, which badly wanted its land for Ballpark Village. The development hasn't come to fruition.
St. Louis beat out 31 other cities in 1984 to house the $7 million museum, but the place never achieved widespread appeal. Still, the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum boosted attendance because visitors got tickets to both. (The Cardinals museum remains closed, waiting for a rebirth in Ballpark Village.)
The bowling museum here is situated in a basic suburban office building. The entryway looks like that of a standard doctor's office.
The museum shares space with the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America, and the sport's governing body, the United States Bowling Congress. The site is sandwiched between Six Flags Over Texas and Rangers Ballpark.
"We thought it was best to consolidate," Thomerson said. "It's all here on one campus."
The museum had to downsize, Thomerson said. They had 50,000 square feet in St. Louis, against 18,000 square feet in Arlington, she said.
"We have to be careful about which exhibits to use," Thomerson said.
She said most of the exhibits from St. Louis were moved here. Several of them on display here refer to St. Louis. The museum traces the sport's roots, starting in ancient Egypt, where a set of bowling pins was found on a child's grave dating to 5200 B.C. Exhibits explain the sport, starting with the archeological digs and ending with American taverns. Mannequins help bring the place to life. Some are used to demonstrate pinboys, the guys who set up the pins before machines were used.
Thomerson said no St. Louis museum employees moved to Texas, although she expects there may be an influx of visitors with the World Series in town.
Anna Murphy, the gift shop manager, joked: "The Rangers are my first team, but if I had a second it would be the Cardinals."
Murphy grew up in Arkansas, which has a large Cardinals following.
Murphy said the museum, which has been open in Arlington for about a year, has drawn between 5,000 to 7,000 people. In St. Louis, it drew about 27,000 during its last year.
But Thomerson notes St. Louis attendance may have been higher because of the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum. "What we need is a Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame," Thomerson joked.
Follow reporter Nick Pistor on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nickpistor
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