One has to look up to catch sight of this Pittsburgh landmark when traveling on Butler Street. The second-floor of Arsenal Bowl overlooks Lawrenceville’s main avenue between 43rd and 44th streets. Inside, the balls and pins make an unmistakable racket over which cheers, laughter, and disappointed sighs echo as bowlers of varied expertise meet up. Patrons let it roll every night of the week.

    The storied Arsenal Bowl has been rolling continuously since 1938 with few breaks for events like the recent pandemic. Twenty-two shiny oak lanes invite even the newest bowler to give it a try.

    Now there’s a theme every evening, varied specials, and afternoon bowling on Saturdays and Sundays. Music ranges from a DJ spinning upbeat tunes to live groups, like Dusty Bo and the band’s “alternative South rock.”

    Tuesday’s College Night includes admission for all ages with carding in effect for drinks, such as $2.00 drafts. Other weekday night themes are: Monday’s Service Industry Night; Wednesday’s Rock n Bowl with live bands; Thursday’s ’80s & ’90s Night with DJ and top-shelf drink discounts; and the “Fri-Yay” DJ Party. At one time bowlers could also perform their favorites on Karaoke Night; those moments of triumph or embarrassment are now just another part of Arsenal history.


    ID is required at Arsenal Bowl. All bowling after 9:00 p.m. is for those 21 and over. Anyone under 21 (including children) can bowl until 8:00 p.m. The website says adults will be carded “no matter how old you look.” Admission ranges from $12.00 to $23.00 (depending on the day), with shoe rental included.

    The facility occupies about 20,000 square feet, which includes two areas with lanes and the Upstairs Saloon. Six people can bowl in each of the 22 lanes. Reserving lanes is recommended.The Upstairs Saloon serves a bar menu of hot food items. The staff can also prepare for parties via reservations for birthdays and other celebrations. Sandwiches, appetizers, munchies, and more can be ordered at the bar or in quantities in advance for reserved events.

    While the lanes are oiled and maintained to provide optimum conditions with the leagues in mind, Arsenal Bowl’s caring maintenance has contributed to a jewel of a bowling facility for all guests. Essentially the only “alley” in the City of Pittsburgh, Arsenal has garnered national publicity and superb fan feedback that stresses the authenticity and fun setting. The New York Times has aptly described Arsenal Bowl: “Where old-school bowling vibe meets nightclub atmosphere.”

    For assistance in getting outfitted for regular bowling, the Proshop offers consultation with lane manager Glenn Bell. Selecting a ball and shoes can be the first step for the new bowler or for anyone looking to update their gear. In addition, merchandise for sale online ranges from caps and hats to tees and hoodies.

    The popularity of bowling leagues endures at Arsenal when groups meet up early evenings before themed nights. Leagues are typically groups of friends and even family who complete and socialize from September to late spring. League activities can include additional events such as holiday pirates, annual dinners, and more. The structure of showing up on league days sustains friendships and regular recreation over the years.

    Arsenal Bowl’s dedicated sibling bowlers Susan McGrane and Dave McGrane. Susan has used the same ball for more than 20 years.

    Arsenal Bowl’s dedicated sibling bowlers Susan McGrane and Dave McGrane. Susan has used the same ball for more than 20 years.

    One well-known Lawrenceville family has been long present at Arsenal. The McGranes are one of the intergenerational groups always found bowling there. Clara “Cookie” McGrane, mother of eight, went out with friends to bowl on Tuesday nights. Her husband John “Baldy” McGrane, for whom the 46th Street ballfield is named, watched the kids on the only night his wife went out. Her daughter Trish and her next-door neighbor were among those who joined Cookie. Another daughter, Susan McGrane, has fond memories of these lanes. She recalls her 10th birthday party at Arsenal.

    “I remember the red velvet seats,” she says of the original decor. Much of Arsenal Bowl’s charm is due to the deco-style interior, retained over recent updates and acclaimed by both designers and bowling aficionados.

    Once she was old enough to bowl, Susan got a gold metallic bowling ball—the one she still uses! She says her scores vary but she doesn’t see the need for a new ball.

    Susan’s mother taught her to keep score on the “giant pink score sheets.” The old hand-scoring cards may be history, but the automated scoring makes it easy to keep track or just ignore those gutter balls.

    Susan joined her mother’s league, which included many others from Carlton Street (where brother Mickey has been Ninth Ward president). Now her brother David McGrane is in the league and the two siblings bowl every other week during the autumn-to-spring league season. Their league is called Gig’s Gang, in honor of a late friend.

    “We grew up on Carlton Street where the people we bowled with generally lived,” Susan says. “It’s a blessing that we stay connected with the people we grew up with.”

    Susan’s been at it about 23 years, and Dave for 20, having moved from Pittsburgh with his job, then returning. They have both served as various officers, but the president gets to plan the annual overnight banquet weekend that has taken the league to Seven Springs and other relaxing regional attractions.

    Holiday parties and other celebrations punctuate the year. From June through August the leagues generally take a break. “It’s been a great experience over the years,” he says. “It’s a social game and nice to keep the tradition going.”

    Arsenal Bowl has remained open and ready for fun, food, and friends without skipping a beat. Visit the website ( or call 412-683-5992.

    Bowl on!

    Yvonne Hudson has lived in Lawrenceville for more than 15 years. A contributing writer to both The Strip! and, she enjoys Pittsburgh arts, our parks, and diverse neighborhoods. An alumna of Point Park University and the University of Pittsburgh, Yvonne appears in her own solo shows in Mrs. Shakespeare, as poet Emily Dickinson, and soon as intrepid western Pennsylvania journalist Nellie Bly. And she admits to singing karaoke at Arsenal Bowl!