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A bowling alley (or bowling center) is a facility where the sport of bowling, often ten-pin bowling, is played. They contain long, narrow wooden lanes (or alleys) and varying on the building size of the bowling alley, the number of lanes can range from just a few to a large number. The largest bowling alley in the world is the Inazawa Grand Bowl in Japan, with 116 lanes. Before World War II, manual pinsetters were used at bowling alleys for ten pin lanes. Modern bowling alleys have automatic or mechanical pinsetters, which have been used since the 1950s. Today, bowling alleys have become a predominant business for middle-class family recreation, having locations in suburban shopping centers, as well as in more urbanized areas worldwide.
Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City was the first indoor bowling alley which opened in 1840. Clay was used for the bowling surfaces. By 1850, there were more than 400 bowling alleys in New York City, which was known as the "bowling capital of North America". Early versions of bowling were difficult and there were concerns about gambling, which eventually led the sport to falter. Several cities in the United States regulated bowling due to associations with gambling.
In the late 19th century, bowling was revived among many U.S. cities such as New York, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Chicago. They 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, including the 1952 introduction of automatic pin spotters, which replaced pin boys who manually controlled the pin placement of the lanes. Today, most bowling alley facilities are operated by Bowlmor AMF or Brunswick Bowling & Billiards.
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