Local Music’s Role in Revitalization: Westside Bowl’s Continued Growth

ROVR playing a set on Westside Bowl’s upstairs stage// Photo courtesy of Westside Bowl

By Cailey Barnhart

To those who have never stepped foot inside its doors, Westside Bowl is an inconspicuous bowling alley located a few miles away from Youngstown State University’s campus.

But those who have seen bands perform here know it is more than just a family-friendly bowling alley.

The ever-changing sign at the front promotes acts that will be playing on one of two stages the venue has to offer. Walking through the doors, visitors can immediately take advantage of the food, inexpensive beers and bowling. 

With the stage built out of old lanes, Westside Bowl’s shows are attended by college students and smaller-scale concert lovers.

Nate Offerdahl is one of the owners of Westside Bowl. He and his wife purchased the bowling alley in March last year.

Offerdahl, a YSU alumnus, earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology and a master’s degree in American studies. He taught at YSU before the couple decided to turn the former Strikers Lanes into this bowling and music venue. 

“We never had any intention of buying a bowling alley. The whole plan was to do, strictly speaking, a music venue,” he said. “What we wanted to emulate was what you see at places like [Cleveland’s] Beachland Ballroom — two rooms, a small one that can hold 100 to 150 people and a larger one that can hold around 500.” 

After a handful of spaces the couple were interested in fell through, Offerdahl’s wife suggested that a nontraditional space like a bowling alley might be just the place they were looking for. 

Local band Northern Whale has played shows at Westside Bowl, and its debut occurred at West Fest, Westside’s one-year anniversary celebration. The band’s upcoming Spooky Fest on Oct. 12 will mark its fourth performance at the venue.  

Jake Capezzuto, Brandon Fisher and Seth Donchess, who make up half of Northern Whale, described the impact the venue has had on the local music scene. 

“Upstairs at Westside Bowl is my favorite place to play in Youngstown. The stage is humongous; you have more room than you know what to do with, and that’s always fun because we love moving around and dancing,” Capezzuto said. 

“Other venues in Youngstown are normally just bars, so it feels like a real venue. The people that come there are there to see our shows,” Donchess said.

ROVR playing a set on Westside Bowl’s upstairs stage// Photo courtesy of Westside Bowl

The band agrees that it is the best place to play when it comes to Youngstown shows.

“Most places don’t even have a parking lot,” Fisher said, when discussing the perks the venue has to offer. 

Other than shows, Westside Bowl has other types of events open to the community. 

Eric Lewis hosts bingo, comedy shows and other events at Westside Bowl. Lewis is originally from Camden, New Jersey, and feels that when it comes to revitalization, Youngstown is “making all the right moves.”

“Anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t see it, or doesn’t want to,” he said.

Lewis is a regular concert attendee and appreciates the fact that having a venue like Westside Bowl so close to home allows him to skip the expensive trip to Cleveland or Pittsburgh as well as directly support Youngstown’s local economy. 

“Westside has helped to diversify the music that’s coming to the area. Outside of classic rock, country and heavy metal, we don’t get a ton of choices for live music,” he said. “Shows [at Westside Bowl] are super approachable pricewise. They’re accessible for folks who work mornings and have families by having earlier showtimes, too.” 

 “There’s a decent selection of food, and all of it is better than most venues, including prices,” he added. “Drinks are also affordable, showing that a venue can still be profitable without having to inflate food and drink prices.”