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A bowling alley (or bowling center) is a facility where the sport of bowling is played. Bowling alleys contain long and narrow wooden lanes (or alleys). The number of lanes inside of a bowling alley is variable. With 116 lanes, the Inazawa Grand Bowl in Japan is the largest bowling alley in the world. Before World War II, manual pinsetters were used at bowling alleys to set up the pins for ten-pin lanes. Modern ten-pin bowling alleys have automatic or mechanical pinsetters. Bowling alleys are predominantly used by middle-class families for recreation and are found worldwide often in suburban shopping centers and urbanized areas.
In 1840, the first indoor bowling alley opened--Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City. Instead of wood, this indoor alley used clay for the bowling lane. By 1850, there were more than 400 bowling alleys in New York City, which earned it the title "bowling capital of North America". Because early versions of bowling were difficult and there were concerns about gambling, the sport faltered. Several cities in the United States regulated bowling due to its association with gambling.
In the late 19th century, bowling was revived in many U.S. cities. Alleys were often located in saloon basements and provided a place for working class men to meet, socialize, and drink alcohol. Bars were and still are a principal feature of a bowling alley. The sport remained popular during the Great Depression and by 1939, there were 4,600 bowling alleys across the United States. New technology was implemented in alleys, including the 1952 introduction of automatic pinsetters (or pinspotters), which replaced pin boys who manually placed bowling pins. Today, most bowling alley facilities are operated by Bowlmor AMF or Brunswick Bowling & Billiards.
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Upon entering a bowling alley, patrons must stop off at a cashier to purchase games and bowling shoes. The shoe rental is often located near the main entrance.
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