Safety and Security: How Bowling Centers Get Serious About Ensuring Fun

From adult-oriented options, such as midnight bowling, to creative parties for kids, bowling center operators continue to devise programs aimed at attracting and pleasing visitors. But while ensuring that customers have fun while visiting their facilities is important, so, too, is keeping guests safe at all times.
“It’s paramount, because it can make or break your reputation,” said Gary Bower, owner of ABC East Lanes and ABC North Lanes in Harrisburg, Pa., as well as ABC West Lanes in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Including league players, each center hosts about 2,000 bowlers weekly during the busy months of January, February and March and slightly fewer throughout the remainder of the year.
With many bowling centers catering largely to families, it is no surprise that operators have implemented policies and procedures for handling children who wander away from the lanes or otherwise get lost in the course of a visit. For example, at Marion, Ohio-based bluefusion entertainment, staff members “are trained from the beginning to be on the lookout for lost kids,” stated Scott Kelly, bowling and attractions manager. They learn a code to use in situations where when a parent notifies them about a missing child and or they spot a clearly unaccompanied youngster somewhere in the 41,000-square-foot building. The code is announced over the public address system, and a lockdown of the facility goes into effect until the missing youth is found or an adult has come forward to claim his or her child.
Meanwhile, at each ABC  location, an employee who is charged with patrolling the facility to pick up loose trash, wipe up spills and the like is also responsible for making certain not only that patrons are bowling “properly” (e.g., not rolling balls in the wrong direction or stepping into the lanes) but that no children remain unsupervised. “We tell our staff that as soon as they see a kid who is wandering around or lost, to stop what they are doing and ask the child who he or she came in with and then bring him or her back to the right adult(s),” Bower explained. “If the child is uncooperative—which sometimes does happen—we get on the public address system, describe him or her and ask that the parents come immediately to the front to find the” youngster.
Much the same is true at Franklin Family Entertainment Center, according to Willie Clark, assistant manager. Lane safety monitors stationed around the facility escort to the front desk children who are alone and visibly upset or appear to be aimlessly roaming the facility rather than headed for the rest rooms or game room. Parents or other responsible adults are then summoned to the front desk using the public address system. Should a parent report a missing child, Clark noted, “we stop what we are doing, make an announcement to that effect and station someone at the door to ensure nobody goes out unescorted.”
Although it has no lockdown procedure, Rule (3) in Pickerington, Ohio, also posts personnel at the door and broadcasts an announcement as soon as someone on staff observes an unaccompanied child or learns that one is missing from his or her group. In the latter type of situation, the announcement uses the child’s first name and offers instructions—e.g., “Johnny, your mother is looking for you. Please go to the main counter of the bowling area.”
Bowling centers have also put into place strategies for handling guests who are acting unruly and/or have consumed too many alcoholic beverages. For Richard Marano, owner of 10 Pin Alley in Hermitage, Pa., a policy aimed at preventing rowdiness from occurring in the first place has proven quite effective. Several years ago, Marano, whose facility draws approximately 50,000 visitors annually, noticed that in the rare instances when problems occurred, they surfaced on busy evenings during popular programs like late-night cosmic bowling and largely involved non-bowlers. “Now, if we are busy and have a special program going on, our policy is that if you’re not bowling, you’re not coming in,” Marano stated. Individuals who “act up” at other times are promptly asked politely to leave; police are called if they do not comply.
Similarly, at ABC East Lanes, ABC West Lanes and ABC North Lanes, patrons must pay a fee at the door to attend special programs, such as late-night “Rock and Bowl.” This, Bower said, “helps greatly” in keeping out individuals who are not really interested in bowling, but rather in clowning around.
In a somewhat different vein, bluefusion entertainment relies on signage to ensure that customer behavior remains up to snuff. A notice, posted prominently at the front entrance, lets guests know that the center is a family friendly facility and that roughhousing and the use of profanity are prohibited.
“Sometimes, it’s a matter of not knowing or realizing that they are doing something wrong, and they will correct themselves, so we have to tell them,” said Justyn Friedrich, Rule (3)’s sales and marketing director.
Bower corroborated these comments, adding that at his facilities, while managers are ultimately responsible for diffusing situations when they do occur, employees are verbally trained as to how to approach them. “They don’t act accusatory; they just calmly and politely say, ‘You were doing X and please stop, or we will have to ask you to leave,’ ” he said.  –

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