Nightlife of the bowling variety is on a roll in Eagan.
Cedarvale Lanes, a local landmark since it opened in 1979, has outlasted nearly every surrounding business near Cedar Avenue and Hwy. 13, and the parking lot is still packed almost every night.
About 2,500 bowlers show up at Cedarvale regularly each week to play in leagues for men, women, couples, seniors and youth.
By that measure, the owners figured a few years ago they're one of the busiest bowling centers in the Upper Midwest.
On top of that, there's recreational open bowling and birthday parties, plus a variety of tournaments that draw bowlers from around the state.
"There are some pretty good scores shot out there," said Tom Groh, tournament director with the Minnesota State Association of the United States Bowling Congress.
Groh doesn't often bowl at Cedarvale, but he said, "It's always been well known. It's well-maintained. The bowlers are happy out there."
Count John Crane of Burnsville among them. He's been a member of a Friday night co-ed league for 19 years.
"Cedarvale throughout the years has always been a high-scoring establishment," he said, noting that in one year alone he saw nine different bowlers throw 300-point games. "There are some very good bowlers here."
But anyone is welcome.
Crane used to bring his daughters to bowl, and said that if you stop by on a Saturday morning, the house -- the preferred term among bowlers -- is full of kids playing in youth leagues. "That's the future of the sport," he said.
Co-owner Brent Prentice, an accomplished bowler himself, said Cedarvale's success comes from sticking to the basics -- good food, good prices, clean facilities -- and a little creativity to keep people coming in the door.
The price to play is as little as $1 a game at certain times of the week. An off-season league lasts 12 weeks through the spring and summer and comes with an extra 100 free games of open bowling for participants. There's an on-site pro shop where people can buy their own equipment and sign up for lessons from champion bowler Scott Pohl.
"There's nothing really special -- you just keep doing what you're good at," Prentice said. "We have three shifts of bowling every day."
While much of the focus is on the pins clattering constantly on the 32 lanes, the bowlers and their families are just as enthusiastic about the food from the attached Fitz's Bar and Grill.
Amy Langowski of New Market comes every Thursday night to watch her husband, Scott, bowl in the men's league. His team moved to Cedarvale a few years ago when Burnsville Bowl closed, and she's a fan of the new weekly hangout.
"The food -- it's wonderful," she said. "The Cajun chicken is good. The chili is great."
Langowski, like most of the others who were there that night, is on a first-name basis with the servers, who keep the food and drinks coming for the bowlers and their families.
"Everyone's really friendly. It's just a fun place," she said.
That's what Prentice wants to hear.
After growing up with parents who bowl, he knew he wanted to go to college and then own a bowling alley. He won enough scholarship money bowling to pay for school, and started at Cedarvale as an intern. He became co-owner in 2000.
"I've met thousands and thousands of people over the years," he said. "My customers are my friends and family."
The bowling alley was once part of the commercial hub of Eagan, but that area, known as Cedar Grove, is now mostly an open field pegged by the city for redevelopment, with the exception of Cedarvale and nearby Jensen's Supper Club.
Yet the bowlers still come.
"We continue to thrive," Prentice said. "It's nice."
Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286