The Story of Westside Bowl: Youngtown’s Unique Bowling Alley/Concert Venue

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – From the outside, Westside Bowl is an eclectic mix of art, from the mural on the side to the painting of Youngstown on the front. The tent along Mahoning Avenue explains what’s in it: bowling, music, pizza and booze.

“We’ve been talking about how much fun it would be to own a music venue,” Nathan Offerdahl says.

The “we” in this case refers to owners Nathan Offerdahl and his wife Jami.

“We’ve been talking about it for years. For twenty years we talked about doing something like this,” said Jami.

In 2015, the Offerdahls decided to make their dream come true, but it took three years of intensive planning for small businesses.

“All of this is taking considerably longer than me and my wife ever imagined,” Nathan said.

That led to March 7, 2018, and the purchase of the former Gran Lanes and making it Westside Bowl.

“We started March 9. At the end of March we had our first show downstairs,” Nathan said.

The room downstairs is small – for concerts of 200 people. To help with the acoustics, the walls and ceiling are lined with foam-covered T-shirts. The room is a great success.

“We do shows… probably 60 percent of what we do, we do here,” Nathan said.

Upstairs there is still a bowling alley, but at one end a series of lanes has been cut in half and made into the main concert stage. The hall is large enough for 1,200 people.

“Band members who come here from out of town say how they wish they had a place like that where they come from, and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Nathan said.

Westside Bowl has weathered COVID-19 with a pay-it-forward pizza plan. The band “Rebreather” bought 10 pizzas to give away and others followed. In the end, 7,000 pizzas were paid and distributed.

“If we hadn’t had those executive affairs so we had a lifeline to pay our bills, I don’t know if we would have made it,” Nathan said.

Last night, the Offerdahls attended a concert in Cleveland, where they witnessed their success firsthand.

“At least 25 people came up to us and said, ‘You’re from Westside Bowl, you’re Westside Bowl! Oh my god, I love that place,” said Jami.

“If you ask me if I’m proud of what we’ve done in just under four years, immensely proud, immensely proud,” Nathan said.

If the success continues, Nathan said he has no plans to take more jobs and make the main stage bigger. Why? He said a bigger venue would bring in bands that are more “rock star” than he wants to hang out with.

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