Kristof’s Entertainment Center marking 50 years of fun in Round Lake Beach

Kristof’s Entertainment Center in Round Lake Beach long has been known as a destination for bowling, mini-golf, go karts and more.

But the origin of the family-owned business celebrating 50 years is more modest.

Jim, left, and Tom Kristoff in the early days of Kristof’s Entertainment Center in Round Lake Beach. The family-owned business opened in 1974 as a bar and bowling alley and expanded over the years to include several attractions. Courtesy of Kristof’s Entertainment Center

“The two of us used to run the whole place,” says co-owner Jim Kristof, who with his brother, Tom, took the reins of a small bowling alley and bar in 1974. “We didn’t have any employees.”

Bowling always has been a staple as the brothers added attractions and made adjustments to a complex that now covers more than 5 acres at 421 Rollins Road.

To celebrate, the first 100 visitors Saturday will get a wristband for unlimited bowling, mini-golf and go karts. For others, all activities are 50% off for the day beginning at 11 a.m. Go Karts close at 9 p.m., mini-golf at 11 p.m., and bowling/arcade/bar close at 2 a.m.

The anniversary celebration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. includes village Trustee Chuck Husk presenting the key to the village and Keith Hamilton of the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association presenting a 50 years of membership plaque to the Kristof family.

Kristof's Entertainment Center in Round Lake Beach began as a bar and bowling alley. The business now marks 50 years in operation. Courtsey of Kristof's Entertainment Center

“Countless families have become a part of ours through making memories at Kristof’s,” said Jim Kristof. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the imprint we’ve left here over the last five decades.”

He was in the wholesale meat business and Tom was managing their mother, Lorraine’s, Kristof’s Wheeling Manor restaurant in Wheeling, when a food salesman had a tip for her.

“There’s a bowling alley for sale in Round Lake Beach and it’s a good deal,” Jim recounted. “She ended up liking the place and bought it.”

John's Farm Inn had been operating in the farmhouse on the property. The 12-lane Beachview Bowl was added in 1964.

Lorraine sold the Wheeling restaurant and moved the chef and staff to the new location. But her attempt at a fine-dining venture didn’t work out.

“We bought her out. It wasn’t gifted to us,” said Jim Kristof. Lorraine moved to Florida and the brothers became the sole operators of Kristof’s Beef & Bowl.

Bowling lanes back in the 1990s at Kristof’s Entertainment Center in Round Lake Beach, which is celebrating 50 years. Courtesy of Kristof’s Entertainment Center

Property was purchased for more parking and changes and additions followed quickly as the business was transformed into a nightlife destination and rebranded as Kristof's Entertainment Center.

“Miniature golf, batting cages and Go Karts, in that order,” said Jim Kristof of the amenities added in the late 1980s. An expanded arcade was part of the “World of Fun” era and Kristof’s became one of the first bowling alleys to adopt what would become known as the bowling entertainment center concept.

In 2003, the Realm of Terror haunted house debuted and will be opening this Halloween season for its 22nd season.

Recent renovations have included new carpeting on the interior and exterior painting. The batting cages were removed this year and a second, 18-hole miniature golf course is under construction. The shape of the original farm house is intact in the center of the building.

“Fifty years have gone by but we’re not done yet,” said Tom Kristof.

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