BRONCO BOWL. The Bronco Bowl was a multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue located at 2600 Fort Worth Avenue in Dallas. The establishment, which occupied the site of the former Mustang Village federal housing project, was built for $3,000,000 by J. Curtis Sanford as a seventy-eight-lane bowling alley for oilman and sports team owner Lamar Hunt. The Bronco Bowl opened in 1961 with a large public event featuring a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by actress Jayne Mansfield.
In its initial existence the complex included not only bowling, but billiards, indoor archery, a pinball arcade, slot car racing, a miniature golf course, and a concert hall. Food concessions and a barber shop rounded out the building’s offerings. The Bronco Arena briefly was also home to the Dallas Broncos, a National Bowling League professional team, which held its first competition at the Bronco Bowl on October 12, 1961, to the cheers of some 2,000 fans in attendance.
While known for its sports attractions, the 136,000-square-foot complex became better known as a live music venue. The Bronco Arena could be converted to a 1,200 seat dancefloor used for everything from high school proms to roadshows.
A teen nightclub, the Pit Club, opened in 1963, and in 1964 local guitarist Floyd Dakil’s band won a competition to become the house band (The Pitmen) at the club. Their single "Dance, Franny, Dance" was recorded live at the Bronco Bowl and released locally on the Jetstar label and picked up for national distribution on the Guyden label. (Dakil [1945–2010] later played guitar in Louis Prima’s band.) Teen dances through the 1960s at the Bronco Bowl were regularly emceed by Ron Chapman, disc jockey and host of the Dallas music television program Sump’n Else.
The Bronco Bowl went into steep decline in the 1970s but enjoyed a renaissance during the 1980s. A reconfiguration of the main concert hall in 1982 enlarged seating capacity to 3,000 and into the 1990s featured local bands and internationally-known acts such as The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Bowie, Public Enemy, U2, Metallica, and Beck. An episode of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show was taped there as well. In its last incarnation the Bronco Bowl included the main concert hall, a sports bar, three smaller clubs, an arcade, billiard tables, and twenty-two bowling lanes.
The Bronco Bowl was shuttered in 1991 but was purchased by Tony and Danny Gibbs and reopened in 1996. The last concert at the venue was a nineteen-band eleven-hour showcase for new and local music talent held on August 16, 2003. The Bronco Bowl closed its doors for good in August 2003. The site was purchased by The Home Depot, Inc., and razed in late 2003.
Dallas Morning News, November 28, 1963; December 14, 2006; May 5, 2010. Dallas Observer, August 14, 2003. Dallas Business Journal, September 29, 2003. Rex Lardner, “Bowling’s Big League – a $14 Million Dollar Gamble,” Sports Illustrated, October 30, 1961, SIVault (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1073149/1/index.htm), accessed May 24, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.John H. Slate, "BRONCO BOWL," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xdb04), accessed February 11, 2016. Uploaded on June 4, 2014. Modified on August 30, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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