On a late afternoon at the ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center, the candlepin bowling alley on Friendship Road in Waldoboro, two bowlers were finishing a leisurely game at lane seven. One of them, Morton Wheeler, threw a strike in his last box. A league bowler came in with his own ball, headed to lane two, and started to smash down pins with fast throws. Two teenagers wandered in to play arcade games. A man who lives nearby picked up a pepperoni pizza.

Managing it all — cooking the food, handing out shoes, making change for the games — was owner and operator Don Benson.

The center has eight candlepin bowling lanes, three pool tables, many arcade games, a kitchen, a big screen TV, a jukebox and an event area. The ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center is located at the former DePatsy Lanes, less than a mile from Waldoboro Village.

The ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center will host a grand opening Thursday, Jan. 14. The first official ball will be thrown at 11 a.m. Everyone who attends can bowl a free game. If someone can’t stay, Benson will give him or her a coupon to come back another day and bowl a free game.

“That includes the shoe rental and the whole game. There will be no cost,” Benson said. “We want people to come and see what we have to offer. We’re hoping that if they try it, they will like it and come back, especially if they have never bowled before.”

Candlepins are tall with a cylindrical shape. They taper off toward the ends and do not have larger bottoms like tenpins.

“With candlepin bowling you use the deadwood and you get three balls,” Benson said. “That’s the biggest difference between tenpin bowling and candlepin bowling.”

Deadwood refers to the pins that are knocked down by a previous throw. The deadwood can ricochet into other pins to give the bowler more points. The bowling balls weigh between 2 pounds, 5 ounces, and 2 pounds, 7 ounces. A score of 100 or more is a really good score, Benson said.

“We have a guy that averages 117, which is our best average in the house,” Benson said. “It’s pretty good, not bad for candlepin bowling. Of course, 300 is a perfect game.”

Benson said no one has ever bowled a perfect candlepin game.

The new bowling lanes come with a computer system to keep track of all the strikes and spares, and gutter balls.

“It’s one of only about 10 facilities on the whole East Coast that has this automatic scoring system,” Benson said. “It’s very unusual to have automatic scoring with candlepin bowling. What’s unique about it is when we have a birthday event we can take a photo of the birthday person and it will go up on the monitor and be displayed with an animation.”

There is also an automated bumper system that is based on the individual bowler. If three people are playing, and a child is using the bumper to keep the ball from going in the gutter, the bumper will only come up for that child, not the other bowlers using the same lane.

Don Benson and his wife, Kelly, purchased the old DePatsy Lanes on July 29, 2009. They started working on the facility in March with permission from the former owners, Dominic and Nicholas DePatsy. They replaced the lanes and made many improvements, but kept reminders of the place where hundreds of Waldoboro bowlers hung out for decades.

“We saved one of the lanes and made a counter out of it for the cafe,” Benson said as he pointed to the reclaimed hardwood that took eight men to lift into place. “It’s the old lane number three.”

Another part of the lane is in the event room for birthday parties and other functions. The new owners saved the old DePatsy Lanes sign, and it is displayed in the arcade. Bowlers who remember the place from decades past have come in to see what Benson has done.

“They’ve seen how much we opened it up and they like what we’ve done to keep some of the history of the place with the sign and the lane being used as a counter,” Benson said. “That’s out of respect for the DePatsy family.”

Nick DePatsy opened DePatsy’s Lanes in October 1961. He died Oct. 30, 2005.

“I never knew the man but I could see his vision for what he wanted,” Benson said. “I feel like we want to continue with that but make it more family oriented and that’s what the community has been most impressed about, how well we’ve made it family oriented to be able to do events like birthday parties and incorporate the bumpers for the kids. You can bring the entire family here and there’s something for everybody to do.”

The ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center is family owned and operated.

“And when I say family, pretty much my entire family has helped during the renovation process,” Benson said. “It’s really been a blessing to have the family that we have. I think in order for us to be successful we have to get through the first year without a lot of personnel costs. And my family has really helped out in that respect.”

Benson’s brothers and sisters came in to help gut the facility and paint and clean. His parents help with cooking on league nights. A brother works part time when it’s busy. He thanked his parents, George and Marion Benson; his brothers, Danny, George Jr. and Patrick; his father-in-law, Bob Hoppe; and his friend Tim Fields.

He also said the community has been very supportive. The Waldoboro Town Office had its Christmas party there, and local people are using the bowling center for birthday parties. Turnout has been strong for league play, Benson said. A men’s league plays Monday nights, and a mixed league began Jan. 5 and will continue on Tuesdays.

“It’s the leagues during the week that will help us to be successful,” Benson said.

The ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center has a lot of specials, for both bowling and food. On Thursdays, it’s unlimited bowling for $10. The menu includes hamburgers, steak sandwiches, chicken, pizza and mozzarella sticks. New items in coming weeks will include seafood baskets, fish and chips, and shrimp.

“Right now we have the basic bowling center food,” Benson said. “But I think in order to make it through the summer months we’re going to have to have more of a flair for the people that come to visit.”

Benson spent 24 years with the Air Force running recreation programs and facilities for troops and their spouses. When he retired in 1999 he went to work for MBNA at Point Lookout. After managing guests and events, he operated the bowling alley there when it opened. The bowling alley closed when Bank of America purchased MBNA, but he went back to open it again for Erickson Retirement Communities. Then the economy got worse, and Benson said he didn’t want to get laid off again so he and his wife, Kelly, bought the Waldoboro bowling alley.

The ALLPLaY Family Entertainment Center is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 832-7860 or visit allplay-fec.com. Benson said he appreciates the community support that is so vital to his business.

“A lot of [local bowlers and residents] came in during the renovation to see what we were doing,” Benson said. “And then they come in after we’re done and they go, ‘Holy cow, you really opened up the place and changed it around and all the new colors, the new flooring, new lighting and the whole nine yards.’ They were amazed at what we were able to do.”