Summer grilling season might still be “cooking,” but for patrons at the Fort McPherson Strike Zone bowling center, the grill has cooled off. The Strike Zone’s grill operations officially ended July 29, leaving loyal patrons looking for a new lunch destination come Aug. 1.

Jeff Butler, chief of the investigative division, U.S. Army Garrison Directorate of Emergency Services, said the Strike Zone was a convenient place to grab lunch due to its proximity to work, the friendliness of the staff and the good food, adding his favorite was the Cajun cheese steak sandwich. “I’ll have to travel off the installation for lunch now if I don’t bring it,” he said on how the closure would affect him.

For Fitzgerald Price, a retired Army sergeant major and Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the closure meant the loss of something more: a quiet place to relax and interact with the military community he was a part of for so long. Price, who retired from Third Army/U.S. Army Central, said he would come to the Strike Zone three or four times a week to eat lunch and read.

Even on its busiest days, he said the place was generally quiet, describing it as an oasis away from the bustle of Atlanta where he now works. The visits would also let him drink up the memories of his prior military life and see the effects of BRAC on the installation. “I have a connection here. Sometimes I get to see folks I know still in uniform around,” he said. “You can’t get that connection in the outside community.”

Patrons weren’t the only ones affected by the closure. The remaining five staff members will also be looking for jobs following their final day of work Aug. 5. Besides the loss of jobs, some staff members, like Cynthia Jackson, Strike Zone assistant business manager, said the loss will be the end of special place in her heart.

“I’ve been bowling here since the 70’s. This has always been my spot to bowl,” she said. A once retired government Civilian employee, Jackson came back to help close out the facility that was such a big influence on her younger years. Though saddened by the loss and having to see it up close, Jackson nevertheless said the return to the center was worth it. “Overall it’s been good,” she said, crediting the staff with helping her through the process of managing the center in its final days.

Though sad, Jackson said her memories and the people she worked with added some to sweetness to what would otherwise be a bitter day.