By Scott Borowsky and Frank Seninsky
Bowl Expo 2016 was a spectacular industry direction-changing event. Similar to political conventions where each convention’s candidate sees a big jump in the polls, our industry felt the positive contagious energy and enthusiasm at Bowl Expo 2016 (June 27-30 Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas). We Buzz Boyz both agreed it was by far the best Bowl Expo in 20 years! Few believe press hype but ‘we’ know firsthand that registration was up dramatically because Tourist Attractions & Parks (TAP) supplied about 2,000 magazines to be included in each registration bag and Bowl Expo staff ran out of the TAP magazines.
Payton Manning was of course a homerun or, in football lingo, a six-touchdown-game performance with memorable quotes like ‘Celebrate what you want to see more of,’ but there were other reasons why the packed trade show floor emulated the ‘buzz’ of a successful NASA rocket launch. As Frank recently reported in his Frank Blog, “Reasons for this range from the industry seeing revenue increases for the past 6 months in every category to a bright industry outlook for the future. The overwhelming majority of proprietors are now fully convinced that removing excess lanes and adding family entertainment center games and attractions can add up to $1M in additional annual revenues.”
Another big reason why Bowl Expo was so successful was because of the new leadership at the BPAA and USBC. Frank DeSocio (BPAA Executive Director), Amy Acuri (Marketing Director), Nancy Schenk (Bowl Expo 2016 Chair and new BPAA President), Frank Wilkinson (USBC President and Bowl Expo 2017 Chair), Bart Burger (Director Membership & Educational Services) and Kelly Bednar (Director of Education) put together an exceptional seminar program, and their teams all deserve our congratulations for a job well done!
Remember Rip Van Winkle?
It seemed as if hundreds of bowling proprietors just woke up from a deep 20-year hibernation and came to spend money to improve their centers. Maybe not the greatest analogy because Rip slept for 20 years but bowling proprietors have been working 18 hours a day but perhaps it was their pocketbooks that were asleep? Anyway, every exhibitor we spoke with (at least 50) reported that they were writing orders as fast as pins drop during the finals of a professional bowling tournament. Just to be clear, we are not picking on bowling proprietors, as other industry categories such as amusement game operators, roller skating, waterpark, amusement park, family entertainment center…, are all realizing that this out-of-home leisure entertainment industry finally sees that it is well deserving of the #3 position ranking of the top growth industries in the U.S.
Now don’t get carried away with that statement. #1 and #2 are pharmaceuticals (drugs) and health care and we at #3 are way below this top tier. It is just like ranking the top theme parks in the U.S. with Disney at #1, Universal at #2 with 25-plus million visitors each annually and then going way down the list to get to #3 that has 3 million. Even though, we should all be very proud!
Opportunity Keeps Knocking But Who Do We Have to Open the Door?
This month the answer is Apple Industries. Allen Weisberg didn’t wait for Opportunity to knock on his door, he went looking for Opportunity. Allen reported that he is placing one or more Face Place photo booths in Trump Towers in New York City. Any games vendor could have done this but Allen recalled his route days when he would go and solicit new locations. Trump Towers gets many tourists and of course locals passing through the lobby. Who would not want to have their picture taken with Donald Trump or his wife Melania, complete with an autograph for perhaps $10 or more? Well, Allen promises to let us know. Hint: Most of us photo booth operators agree that an average benchmark for a photo booth at $5/picture is $200/week or $10,000 gross/year. Do the math for Trump Towers or any other heavily trafficked location such as major tourist destinations and like zoos, aquariums, retail stores, pro sports venues, and don’t be shocked if the revenues for a photo booth and perhaps a Ticket Crane (where ticket bundles can be exchanged for a Clinton key chain,) can exceed $100,000/year or more.
Pokemon and FECs
Opportunity is knocking once again on our industry door. Where is the most logical, supervised and safest fun environment for people to come to search for clues and do their Pokemon thing? Yep, the correct answer is FECs and bowling centers across the nation. ‘We’ are, after all, the experts in merchandise and prizes. Why not have our associations get involved and actively promote this idea to the powers that be?
Here is a short story that many in our industry may never have heard. Scott Borowsky back in the early 1990s was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer. At that time parents were afraid to let their kids out to play by themselves. This was Opportunity but most people did not know what doors to knock on so Scott led them to the FEC doors, and that is one reason that the general public came to view FECs as a safe haven for kids.
Perhaps Pokemon can lead Opportunity to our doors once again? And Opportunity can tell Pokemon that our industry can place clues in the merchandise that is in our cranes and in the redemption prize center and tell Pokemon to let our game manufacturers know that additional clues and virtual characters can also be included in some of our games. Please also include zoos, aquariums, retail stores that have amusement games, trampoline parks, amusement parks, bowling and skating centers… I think you all get the general idea.