Creating the Perfect Place to Play:
Color and Music at Bowling Centers

Today’s bowling centers are a hub for corporate events, birthday parties and social get-togethers. To attract such a diverse following, bowling centers have to be about fun and entertainment.  Everything from the décor to the music that plays throughout the center has to express a sense of fun.
As owner of Sempeck’s Bowling and Entertainment Center in Elkhorn, Neb., Steve Sempeck has seen bowling centers evolve. His 86,000-square-foot center is home to 40 lanes, a sports bar and restaurant, indoor electric go-karts, and a 75-game arcade.
“We have 24 traditional bowling lanes that have the common table and chairs setting, but then we have 16 lanes that are like a VIP room at a club with couches and glow-in-the-dark carpet and screens for viewing music videos or sports events. This area has a completely different look.” Sempeck explained.  “In these non-traditional lanes, cosmic bowling is a popular activity, and we price bowling by the hour, not by the game, as we do on the traditional lanes.”  
A fan of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, Sempeck has brought in some of Wright’s influences, such as complementing warm colors and wood grains.
“We have bright yellows throughout the bowling center that cool down into oranges and burgundy shades except in the arcade, where we have bright neon colors. We felt the bright colors fit the atmosphere of an arcade.  In the carpets, we have accents of blue and green. We have pulled the color, decor and music together to give our center that air of excitement that brings in customers.”  
Sempeck subscribes to a bowling music service which provides access to thousands of music choices plus music videos.
“Customers can pick their theme music. For instance, for birthday parties, 1980s and 1990s music is popular, but we could have a country-music theme event going on, so obviously the choice will be all country music.”
On the traditional bowling lanes, Sempeck has music playing all the time.  While league bowlers like music, they do not want to be distracted by it.  So, Sempeck keeps the volume low so that the background music provides a relaxing atmosphere in a sometimes competitive environment.  
“Our facility is a testament to how bowling centers have changed through the years,” he noted.  “We used to be about leagues all the time.  Now, it’s a good split.  Leagues are still important, but bowling has become a major entertainment option for people who just want a night out. People have re-discovered the fun that can be had going bowling.”
All Star Lanes in Los Angeles, Calif., is a common location for shooting both TV shows and films. The 25,000-square-foot bowling center has been in existence since the 1950s but was bought over and remodeled in 2003.  Operations Manager David Senehi, has witnessed the resurgence of bowling for everyday entertainment.
“We have 22 bowling lanes with automatic scoring that attracts customers for cosmic and black light bowling on weekends. It is so popular,” Senehi observed. “We also have an arcade, pool tables, a 150-seat restaurant and a sports bar that hosts karaoke, live bands and standup comedy shows.”
With so many attractions, Senehi believes it is important that the facility resonate with excitement, and décor and music are a big part of that equation.  All Star Lanes is repainted about every two years.  The newest color scheme in the bowling center is bright green and white.  The restaurant, which serves Mexican, Chinese and American fare, has a chic décor feel while the sports bar reflects a retro theme.  
“While we coordinate colors, we give each area its own definition,” Senehi noted. “The bar is a kick back and relax atmosphere; the restaurant offers a bit of sophistication and the bowling center is meant for fun and excitement.”
All Star Lanes has music playing throughout the center via a satellite radio service. Senehi can choose different genres depending upon what type of crowd is in the bowling center that night.  For leagues, he plays the music at a low volume so that it enhances people’s bowling experience instead of distracting from it.  Karaoke music is also popular with patrons as are the live bands that Senehi books on a regular basis.
“Music is an important element in attracting customers,” he explained. “Sometimes, patrons come in for the music and stay to eat or then decide to bowl.  Sometimes music takes over the entire facility. We will shut down to have concerts.  People come to just hear the music we have here.  It definitely plays an important role in our success.”
As general manager for Medford Bowling Center in Medford, N.J., Connie Gresko knows what customers expect from the bowling center, which is owned by her fiancé Joseph Strippoli.   The 16-lane facility is one of the rare bowling centers that still offers just bowling for both league and open play.  
“We have adult leagues, senior leagues, children leagues plus we host birthday parties and fundraising events here as well,” said Gresko.  “We do have cosmic bowling on Friday and Saturday nights, which brings in a lot of customers.”
Medford Bowling Center does not have food except for vending machines, but that has not deterred people from coming into the center.
“Parents love us because our facility is bright and clean.  Our colors are neutral with wood grains and blue accents.  So, no dirt can hide. People know when they come in here that our place is clean and safe.”
Gresko plays ITunes throughout the bowling center.  She sorts out music genres depending on who is bowling. For younger bowlers, pop music is most requested.  Adult leagues like music from the 1970s and 1980s, and the senior leagues opt for big band music.
“I go from Lady GaGa to Frank Sinatra and sometimes I throw in my own choices such as the electric slide,” she noted. “I love that when I put on dance music people waiting to bowl will stand up and start to dance.  Music definitely adds to the fun atmosphere here and that is what bowling is all about.”  
As owner of DiDonato’s Bowling Center in Hammonton, N.J., Stephen DiDonato wants his customers to feel excitement as soon as they walk through the doors.  His 26-lane bowling center, which contains a snack bar as well as a bar and lounge, sport a blue color scheme accented by wood grains.  The carpeting throughout the center is a “Mardi Gras” print, which includes a multitude of vibrant colors plus purples and blues that glow in the dark.
“We did a major remodel four years ago where we re-did everything, including the bathroom, and we even upgraded our automatic scoring system. We were the first center in the area to have automatic scoring and now we have a better system in place.”
DiDonato recognizes the role music plays in bringing in customers. He hosts karaoke nights each week and also brings in live bands to play.
“It used to be bowling was about leagues, but now people flock to the lanes to have a fun night out,” he noted. “They want to be entertained, and music is a big part of entertainment. Music adds another dimension of fun and that is what I want for my customers.”
For more than 30 years, Mary and Larry Phillips and Bud and Barb Simmonds have owned the family run West Lanes in Omaha, Neb. The bowling center has 24 lanes along with a snack bar and arcade.
“I do believe that décor plays a part in attracting customers and keeping them coming back,” said Mary Phillips.  “We have remodeled several times over the years and the last time was two years ago. We put in a new computer scoring system, changed the color scheme, added new tables and chairs and replaced the carpeting.”
Phillips said the upgrades made the bowling center more vibrant and attractive to leagues, adults and families. Orange and yellow walls welcome customers as does the glow-in-the-dark carpet and tables.
“We have had laser bowling for more than 10 years, and it has remained so popular.  The Glow-in-the-dark accents make everything come to life.”
Radio does play in the background all the time, and customers can choose the stations.
“I like the crowd to get involved with the music choices too,” Phillips said. “I like that it gives them an extra lift, makes their night more fun and maybe even inspires them to dance.” –

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