Ron Bertin is the heart and soul behind the restoration of Sparwood’s retired five-pin bowling alley. Bertin is aiming to create a family-friendly hub which he is calling the Sparwood Fun Centre. The grand opening will be held on Friday, August 4. Read the full story on page A5. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Breathing life into Sparwood with a family-friendly hub

Purchasing the old bowling alley was a no-brainer for Sparwood’s Ron Bertin, who has big plans for what he is renaming, the Sparwood Fun Centre.

“I get to work, and play, where I want to live,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Bertin recently sold his business in the Shuswap region, and was delighted to make the move to the East Kootenays. During the summer months, Bertin spent most of his time at Lake Koocanusa with his family. Through this, he developed a love for the area.

Bertin’s son also relocated his contracting business to the Elk Valley last June, and this has provided Bertin with many helping hands in the restoration of the old entertainment centre.

This centre consisted of a five-pin bowling alley, indoor mini golf, and pool tables with a bar. In Bertin’s eyes, the centre lacked passion. He hopes to restore that spirit, and restart what he believes will be an entertainment hub for families and young children.

He will not be removing the pool tables, mini golf, or bowling alley, but rather, improving it.

Contractors and painters have been busy inside the building, which is currently tucked away at 1290 Ponderosa Drive.

Striving to keep the original artwork, Bertin has been working hard to revive the original blue and yellow style and give it life.

“Somebody put a lot of work into that, I don’t want to just paint over it,” he said.

Bertin has also opened up the lounge area by tearing down some walls that used to be a part of a bar. He wants the area by the bowling lanes to be more family-oriented.

The walkway by the entrance is also being re-done. It was previously constructed out of bricks that had become unstable and unsafe over time. Together with the help of his son, they ripped all of these out and replaced it with a new walkway.

In addition to restoring the building, Bertin aims to launch several bowling leagues of different skill levels. These include leagues for youth. He hopes the Sparwood Fun Centre can serve as a fun, safe environment for youth to hang out and socialize.

“My vision (is to) have teams from Fernie, Crowsnest, Sparwood, Elkford, in leagues,” he said.

“It’s friendly community rivalry,” he added. “It’s great, it’ll get more people into Sparwood, as opposed to people going out of Sparwood for entertainment.”

Bertin is over the moon with his investment; he enjoys every step of the transformation process. On top of this, his entire family is involved, including his grandchildren.

Before owning his business in the Shuswap Region, Bertin was the head of Human Relations for Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada.

Taking on a national role, his job took him across Canada. After doing this for nearly 27 years, Bertin decided it was time to retire, and knew that he was destined to settle down in the west.

“This is a great, semi-retirement gig,” said Bertin. “This will keep me where I want to be.”

Bertin has many ideas for expanding the Sparwood Fun Centre, but cannot reveal them at this time. However, if he sees that the community of Sparwood and the surrounding areas are enthusiastic about this new centre, this will motivate him even more to complete these projects.

Bertin’s experience in the retail industry has taught him to give people what they want at an affordable price. Most of the original prices from five years ago, Bertin has lowered. This is part of his dream, to create a fun, affordable family experience.

Seeing that the bowling alley was previously not open in the summer months, Bertin vowed to change this. The Sparwood Fun Centre will be open on a modified schedule until September, from Tuesday to Saturday, 3 to 10 p.m. Once the leagues open in September, the centre will be open 3-10 every day.

Bertin welcomes any suggestions from the public about ways to improve the old bowling alley. He has already seen a large following online, and is thankful for this.

“There’s a lot of cooperation, a lot of support, and trust me, I’ll give it back,” said Bertin.

The grand opening for the Sparwood Fun Centre will be on August 4, from 5 to 10 p.m. There will be hourly draws, free snacks, half price bowling and mini golf.