Themed Bowling Centers: A Balance Between Sport and Style

September 11, 2012 No Comments

Bowling has long been an enjoyable, recreational sport for families, teens, young adults and seniors. While the game is enjoyable no matter the surroundings, many bowling centers are capitalizing on particular themes, in order to draw crowds and boost excitement.
A step inside Rifle Fireside Lanes, in Rifle, Colo., takes you back in time to the 1950s. With pictures of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and James Dean adorning the walls, the 1950s era is brought to life. “We also have a black and white checkerboard floor in the bowling area, red and chrome bar stools and checkerboard counters,” said General Manager Danae Morris, describing the furniture that really evokes that 1950s feel.
Rifle Fireside Lanes attracts a varied crowd of teens, families and, of course, those over 21 who are there for the bar scene. “The owners remodeled the location when it was purchased and decided to go with a 1950s-inspired theme. Everyone is happy with the decision,” said Morris. “We’ve only been open for a year, so there are no set plans for improvements, but I imagine that over time, we will redo the carpets and perhaps get new 1950s-style tables and chairs,” Morris said.
Retro Bowl, in Dalton, Ga., also features a 1950s theme. “Our retro-style features vinyl chairs and other furniture from that period,” said alley Manager David Dunlap. “The owners decided this was theme they wanted and it really is working out well. The owners are very pleased.”
Always on top of keeping the theme fresh and appealing, the owners of Retro Bowl are currently in talks with an architect to continue to improve upon the center. “The architect has some great ideas for cosmetic changes, including the addition of a restaurant and updating the furniture,” said Dunlap. No time frame has yet been established for these upgrades.
It seems the retro-style bowling alley is a common theme throughout the country, with yet another one: Suburban Bowlerama, in York, Pa. This location was remodeled in 1999, with the idea that if new trends are always going in and out of style, why not just go back in time? “The retro, 1950s theme never goes out of style; it’s timeless,” said Owner Jim Plessinger.
The bowling alley features the black and white checkerboard theme and has an old diner look from the outside. “Our checkerboard exterior has almost become a brand within our community,” said Plessinger. “We recently redid our interior with automatic scoring and added new masking units, so no major plans are currently in place for improvements. However, we try to keep it fresh with a new coat of paint now and then and some power washing,” described Plessinger, whose facility sees around 150,000 guests a year.
Ever try bowling under the sea? That is what one will experience at Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill, in East Peoria, Ill. Upon entering the establishment, guests are sure to notice the 90-foot Spanish galleon above their heads. The blue ceiling looks like shimmering water and fish and sharks are dangling from above.
“It’s an underwater world,” said General Manager Jeff Westbay. “Even the ball returns are sea-themed, with the balls popping back out of shark or crocodile heads.” The lanes are also custom-designed, blue with fish graphics, which give the illusion that you are tossing your ball right into the water.
“Johnny Morris, owner of Bass Pro Shops, chose to try the sea-themed bowling alley to add a family element of recreation to fit the theme of Bass Pro Shops. It is working out so well that there are plans being made to open four more locations,” said Westbay. In 2013, new locations will open in Colorado Springs, Colo., Memphis, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark. Plans are also underway for a fourth location in Connecticut. “We are also contemplating adding more lanes to existing locations and the addition of arcade games that distribute redemption tickets, so kids can bowl, as well as play games,” Westbay stated.
Westbay estimates that 400-600 bowling games are played each week, with guests ranging in age from 3 to 70.
While it may not be as specific a theme as “Under the Sea” or “Retro,” Alley Cats, in Arlington, Texas, considers their theme to be “Wow Factor,” said Jay Trietley, general manager. “Every move, every decision we make, is to wow our customer.” This is evident in the décor of the center, which features enormous television screens hanging above each lane that show music videos or sports. Rather than the usual plastic chairs in each lane, guests can relax on comfortable sofas. “Everything we do is bright, fun and energetic,” Trietley said.
The owners of Alley Cats toured bowling centers around the country and decided to incorporate the coolest ideas from each place into their own setting. “The decisions the owners have made have been very well-received by the public. While it is typical for other businesses to have a really good period and then find business leveling off, we have consistently seen a steady rise in numbers,” Trietley said.
Alley Cats sees over a million bowlers each year, consisting of families with kids 12 and under in the mornings, families with teens during the afternoon and adults and teens in the evenings. “We do not have leagues, except our junior league on Saturday mornings, so we focus more on open play and corporate team-building,” Trietley remarked.
Bowlmor Lanes Times Square, in New York, N.Y., is a mega bowling center with a heavy New York theme. With 50 lanes and two floors, this center is split up into seven sections that are truly a tribute to New York City.
The CEO of Bowlmor collaborated with a designer to create this center, which is located in the heart of the city, and is truly a dedication to the city as a whole. Always looking to improve ambiance, new framed pieces and other décor are constantly added, as long as they match the aesthetic and the brand.
On just one level, guests will find sections named after famous parts of New York City, such as Midtown Lanes, Chinatown Lanes, Coney Island Lanes and Central Park Lanes. The upstairs bar and lounge features the Prohibition Lanes, dedicated to the age of prohibition, Pop New York Lanes, which has a retro feel and the largest section, the Art Deco Lanes. All of the areas are decorated in accordance with the part of New York for which they are named.
The sophistication of the center attracts an older crowd, particularly for corporate holiday parties and team-building, but they do host camp groups and birthday parties, too. Additionally, Bowlmor sees a wide mix of tourists, as well as native New Yorkers. -

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