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Move over, MarBar -- the Strikes bowling lounge is about to take over as University City's newest night spot.

Starting Jan. 5, Strikes will debut not on the suburban streets of the main line or in the warehouses in nearby New Jersey, but rather in the heart of West Philadelphia on Locust Street between 40th and 41st streets.

Slated to open nearly a month ahead of schedule, the venue -- which will also house a bar, restaurant and lounge -- will welcome returning students to its new home.

Although it may still look far from completed from the outside, Strikes developers assert that the project is making rapid progress.

"We're further along than it looks," Strikes General Manager Mike Ellis said. "The lanes are being put in this week, the kitchen will be installed in the next few days, the menu has been designed and we will begin hiring people" in early December.

When it finally opens in January, the eagerly anticipated alley will provide Penn students with an alternative and innovative hangout that appeals to a wide audience, according to Strikes owners.

"I went to Penn, so I know that besides Smoke's there's not really much to do" around campus, Strikes Co-Owner Matt Canno said. "We wanted to create a place where anyone can be comfortable and anyone can have fun, regardless of whether you want to drink or not," the Class of '01 Wharton alumnus added.

With 12 lanes, Strikes' principal appeal may be as a bowling alley, but its owners insist that it will offer much more.

"Strikes is going to be kind of like a cross between a sophisticated Stephen Starr lounge with dramatic lighting and sound effects and a traditional, suburban bowling alley," Canno said. "It's going to be the perfect mix of nightlife and recreation all rolled into one."

In light of the current popularity of chic night spot MarBar, Strikes will try to emulate some of that sophistication in its food offerings, serving more than 60 upscale menu items and over 100 different drinks, taking the traditional food of bowling alleys to a whole new level.

"Our menu is really going to take bar food up a notch," Ellis said. "We're not going to offer the frozen chicken fingers or prepackaged sandwiches you find at most bowling alleys."

Further contributing to its unconventional appeal is Strikes' unique location. Though there are a large number of bowling alleys in the metropolitan area, Strikes will be the first within Philadelphia city limits.

"It's a great idea to put a bowling alley in Philadelphia itself," College sophomore Julie Bellware said. "Groups of Penn kids are always taking bowling trips, but most of the bowling alleys are in the suburbs or New Jersey. I think an alley in our area will be more convenient and really successful."

To cater to the growing number of families in University City -- although they will not be the primary target -- the alley's owners have decided to establish parent and child leagues on weekend mornings.

"Strikes is not going to be a traditional bowling alley that caters to 55-year-old men," Canno said. "There are a lot of young people in the neighborhood who have already expressed interest in a new hangout, and I think Strikes will be a hit for kids of all ages."

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