by Nathan Boddy
Knut Hoelstad says that he knew, years before making the purchase, that he would eventually own the Ravalli Fun Center. His years in the Navy, then working for Rocky Mountain Lab, didn’t slow his involvement with bowling and leagues in the Bitterroot Valley, and when he began working for the Ravalli Fun Center in 2009, his relationship grew even more.
It’s a labor of love,” Hoelstad says about owning and running the Fun Center. “It’s the funnest job I’ve ever done.”
The Ravalli Fun Center, located at 300 Skeels Avenue in Hamilton, is rapidly becoming a center for a wide variety of events, beyond just the bowling lanes themselves. Hoelstad says that the facility is being used for reunions, receptions, bowling leagues, casino, shuffleboard, corn-hole leagues and more. They also offer a ‘Kids Bowl Free’ program during the summer months. Business is doing so well that Hoelstad looks forward to an expansion in the future, which will hopefully add enough space for even more activities. Perhaps it is this growth that earned Ravalli Fun Center the Business of the Year selection by the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“That was a very pleasant surprise,” says Hoelstad of the award. “It makes you realize you’re doing something right.”
The Ravalli Fun Center employs six full-time and three part-time employees, not counting Knut and his wife and business partner Dasha, both of whom give unlimited hours of time to the business. While the couple purchased the business in June of 2019 and did have to close up for a while during the worst of the pandemic, Hoelstad says they’ve been “going strong,” ever since. In fact, he points out that growth in the valley has meant that rarely a day goes by when they don’t see at least one new face show up to play. Given their location across the street from Hamilton’s future Fire Station, as well as the urban development that will connect Skeels to Fairgrounds Road, Hoelstad feels as though they are in a good position.
“My whole goal is to do something for the valley,” says Hoelstad. “To make this a hub for kids of all ages.”