A Beaufort church is hoping to roll a strike with an unusual form of community outreach.
Love House Outreach Ministries Inc. has purchased the shuttered Ribaut Lanes and will open the Community Bowling Center this fall, according to Pastor Randy Roberts.
"We are a small organization, but we want to do a lot of big things," Roberts said. "... I often tell my congregation that if we aren't doing anything to help the community, we are nothing more than a very expensive social club with very expensive dues we call tithes and offerings."
The church completed the sale Tuesday. AMF closed the bowling alley in July 2012 because of financial troubles, a company spokesman said then. The 26,000-square-foot building on 2.2 acres was listed for sale at $625,000. Roberts would not divulge the sale price but indicated it was less than the listing.
"We first looked at it exclusively to establish it as a church, but we prayed on it and this is what happened," Roberts said.
The center will be smoke-free and alcohol-free. The ministry hopes to provide a safe, inexpensive place for children, families and community groups to gather, he said. Bowling will cost $3 a person.
"When people come, they will be able to come and bowl, and we do not use it necessarily to proselytize," Roberts said. "But it is Christian-owned and operated, so we won't shy away from God.
"But there won't be any preaching to you while you're trying to bowl a strike."
The center's hours will be 1 to 11 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends. Roberts expects the hours eventually to expand as its programs grow. Possibilities include day programs for senior citizens and meeting space for community groups.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said the idea of the bowling center is appealing and innovative. He met with Roberts about the plan.
"I told him that I believe, from my conversations with young people all over the community, one of their biggest concerns and complaints is there is nothing to do," Keyserling said. "When the bowling alley closed, it was one less thing for them to do."
Roberts said the church plans to hire about five people initially, including a manager. Services will remain at Love House's locations at 423 Parris Island Gateway and 55 Sams Point Road for now, he said.
Love House seeks the community's help to prepare the center, which includes bringing the building up to code, redecorating and landscaping. For information or to get involved, call the church at 843-525-1043 or go to lovehouseministries.com.
"It's important that we communicate it is not the Love House bowling alley," Roberts said. "This is the community bowling alley. It just happens to be owned by Love House."
Related video: Pastor Randy RobertsVideo by reporter Erin Moody. Follow Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
If you go
The Love House Ministries' Community Bowling Center, 1140 Ribaut Road, will hold a dedication ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Monday, with church representatives, government officials and community leaders attending. A grand opening is intended for late November.