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Country Lanes North clears lane for Planet Fitness

Construction on the 22,300-square-foot, $7 million-$8 million Duluth fitness center is expected to begin this fall.

Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
Dusty Manty, of Cloquet, uses an impact driver to remove bolts from the ball return system at Country Lanes North on Thursday in Duluth. The business is closed and is planned to be demolished in a couple weeks to make way for a Planet Fitness.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Family-owned Country Lanes North closed Tuesday after 46 years of operation. The building, located at 2327 Mountain Shadow Drive, will be demolished in early July. Planet Fitness will be constructed in its place.

Planet Fitness hopes to begin construction on its brand-new 22,300-square-foot facility this fall with an anticipated opening in mid-2023. With 2,291 locations across the U.S., Canada, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico and Australia, this will be its first Twin Ports location in the heart of Duluth’s retail corridor.

Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
Country Lanes North on Thursday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The fitness chain was founded in 1992 in Hampton, New Hampshire, by brothers Michael and Marc Grondahl. The company is now owned by Chris Rondeau.

Planet Fitness is known for its wide offering of affordable memberships and its 24-hour "Judgement-Free Zone" that caters to both pro and casual gym users. According to Planet Fitness, the spelling of “Judgement” (with an ‘e’) was actually a mistake in the early years.

"We considered changing it, but we think it makes us different and really fits with our judgement free personality," Planet Fitness states on its website.

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Country Lanes North
The Duluth Planning Commission granted a variance to Planet Fitness on June 14 allowing for 178 parking spaces to ease traffic through the parking lot.
Contributed / Legistar

The Duluth facility would include its prototypical design, which features a variety of fitness equipment such as treadmills, elliptical machines, bikes, indoor cycling, step mills, rowers and more. The new facility would also feature specialty equipment in designated rooms along with member access to small course classes and trainers, with locker rooms on-site.

During peak hours, Planet Fitness anticipates heavy parking use. To ease traffic through the parking lot, keep local roads free of traffic and ensure customers are not parking in adjoining properties' parking lots, approval of additional spaces was requested.

Duluth Planning Commission granted a variance to Planet Fitness on June 14 allowing for 178 parking spaces, which is 200% the maximum of 89-134 typically allowed for a building its size.

The project will be a $7 million-$8 million investment, according to Todd Reyling of Planet Fitness Baseline Fitness, who spoke during the meeting. The company will also be required to store and treat stormwater on-site.

Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
Country Lanes North owner Scott Carlson, of Hermantown, disassembles a part of a pin machine Thursday in Duluth. Carlson was 16 years old when his father started the bowling alley and has been a part of the business ever since.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Farewell to the community

Like many other businesses, Country Lanes North took an economic hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Scott Carlson said. When the opportunity to sell the business presented itself, the 62-year-old said he took advantage of it. He plans to take a few months off, and will eventually get another job.

It is unclear whether Country Lanes North plans to relocate to a new location in the area.

Scott's father, Robert A. Carlson, built the bowling alley in 1976. Scott and his brother, Dale Carlson, worked there since their teenage years. Dale left 15 years ago to start his own business.

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Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
Bowling equipment staged for removal at Country Lanes North on Thursday in Duluth. The business is closed and is planned to be demolished in a couple weeks to make way for a Planet Fitness.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

"To all of our faithful customers, it is with mixed emotions to tell everyone that it looks like our family bowling center of 46 years will be sold," Scott Carlson wrote on the Country Lanes North Facebook page . "Thank you for letting me live my dream job for 46 years."

Bowlers have until July 1 to get equipment out of lockers. Volleyball and bean bags teams can pick up refunds. Tuesday Jersey league can also pick up prize money.

Country Lanes North held a celebration Tuesday where customers enjoyed free bowling and pizza and shared fond memories.

"It was so much fun hearing all the stories about how it touched so many lives. The engagements, a lot of people met their spouses here. It was amazing. It was nice to hear how it affected everyone's lives in a good way," Scott said.

"I'll be down here when they put the wrecking ball to it," he said. "It's going to be hard."

Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
A warning sticker written in Japanese seen on a pin machine at Country Lanes North on Thursday in Duluth. The AMF-brand machines were built in the United States then shipped to Japan for use in bowling centers. The Carlson family bought them as overstock and they were shipped back to Duluth for use in their bowling alley. According to owner Scott Carlson, the labels translate to “You must remove power before entering the machine.”
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
Jim Slocum, of Fredenburg Township, uses an impact driver to remove screws from the synthetic lane surface at Country Lanes North on Thursday in Duluth. Slocum has bowled at the lanes since 1979 and has at least seven perfect games.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Workers using power tools to disassemble bowling lanes and equipment
Bowling equipment and chairs staged to be hauled away at Country Lanes North on Thursday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Wyatt Buckner is a digital producer and Brielle Bredsten is a business reporter.

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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