NEWS that Sports Direct is going to move over the road into the former TK Maxx store has killed the chance of the store being converted into a bowling alley, which is ironic because Sports Direct’s current home was originally built as an alley when ten pin mania spread across the country in the 1960s.

The land behind the library was originally part of Peases’ Mill but it was cleared when the town centre was radically reshaped in the early 1960s with the inner ring road sweeping through.

The first ten pin bowling alleys were introduced to Britain in 1960, and as early as 1963, a “ten pin bowl”, with a nightclub above, was planned on the vacant land behind the library.

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It was built in 1966 and before it opened, there were complaints about the unattractiveness of the blank wall overlooking Lower Priestgate. Developers gave assurances that when it was completed, the wall would not be visible – more than 50 years later, the wall is still very visible.

It opened on May 11, 1966, as the Magnet Bowl, and it had 24 lanes. For a brief moment, ten pin bowling was the next big thing – there was even a Ten Pin Bowling World Championship.

The Echo started a weekly Ten Pin Bowling column with news from around the rinks. This included that on the Darlington alley’s first birthday it was going to host the “biggest single day, five-man tournament yet staged in Britain” with Vaux breweries putting up a staggering £200 first prize.

Yet it was a short-lived fad. By the start of 1970, many of the 160 alleys in the country were fading as interest waned, and the “shock closure” of the Magnet Bowl was announced in early February 1970. It closed on February 20.

Unlike many bowling alleys which were converted to suit the next big thing – bingo – the Magnet Bowl kept its nightclub upstairs – Club Lucy’s – while the downstairs was a mixture of retail outlets and a late bar.

When Sports Direct moves in the new year, it will be entirely empty. What will happen to it? Perhaps someone will have the bright idea of putting a bowling alley in there – it looks purpose-built for such an activity.