The sun hasn’t necessarily set for AMF’s daytime league bowlers.
Tom Shannon, the chief executive, chairman and president of newly merged Bowlmor AMF, offered an olive branch Sunday for those daytime bowlers whose leagues have either closed or are in the process of closing.
Shannon suggested that if enough bowlers band together and agree to bowl on one particular day, then their bowling center might be able to financially support opening the building earlier for the daytime leagues.
Bowlmor AMF has faced a firestorm of criticism recently for closing many daytime AMF leagues in which participants have been bowling for decades.
“If [daytime] leagues want to be proactive and consolidate, then we’d be happy to do it,” said Shannon, the former chief executive of Bowlmor now running the largest operator of bowling centers in the world with the merger of Bowlmor and AMF.
“If you get 60 bowlers on a Thursday, it won’t be a profitable business, but we won’t lose money,” Shannon said. “And for me, that’s acceptable. We won’t open up for 12 people, but if we have 60, then it’s doable. I’m happy to accommodate people, but I just don’t want to lose money.”
Shannon’s comments followed outcries of disappointment and anguish from longtime bowlers at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills who were being displaced because of the elimination of their daytime leagues – a result of AMF centers pushing back the hours in which they open.
Woodlake Lanes, however, isn’t an isolated case – other AMF centers either have lost some leagues or are in the process of losing them.
Shannon made it clear that the decision to open bowling centers at a later time is strictly a financial one. “My job requirement is to get the company to survive and ultimately be successful,” he said. “We won’t do things that are unprofitable.”
Shannon said AMF’s nighttime leagues are generally unaffected by the changes. “We’ve protected and defended 99% of our nighttime leagues,” he said.
The one bowling center whose nighttime leagues have been affected is AMF Bay Shore Lanes in Santa Monica, Shannon said. Those leagues are being scrapped, but Shannon said there were renovation and rental issues specific to that center.
“We were facing a million-dollar rent increase,” said Shannon, who said AMF is not selling the Bay Shores Lanes center.
Shannon, a bowling enthusiast who carries a 170 average, also addressed complaints about the steep increase in beer prices at AMF centers. “People need to be realistic about the fair price of beer,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can get a price like AMF’s anywhere in the market.”
And he added: “If we can’t find ways to become more profitable, bowling will become extinct.”
The merger between AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc., and Bowlmor two months ago allowed AMF to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by combining with Bowlmor, a New York-based operator of high-end bowling centers.
Bowlmor operates six bowling and entertainment venues in New York, Florida, Maryland and California.
Shortly after the merger, Shannon said that Bowlmor was the “only bidder willing to pay” to help AMF out of bankruptcy.
“AMF went bankrupt twice in the last 10 years,” Shannon said, “and a good question is how did it happen? I didn’t buy AMF to get in bankruptcy a third time, but to save it.”
Shannon indicated Sunday that the alteration of AMF’s bowling hours won’t be the last of the changes. He said he was not happy with the “Kids Bowl Free” program. “We have to stop doing things that make no sense,” he said.
Shannon said that “we think the future is very bright and AMF can expand and offer its product in hundreds of markets across the country. I think bowling is a fantastic game, but if we do things that make no sense, then bowling will become extinct.”
Shannon has been praised by Wikipedia, saying he “is credited with singlehandedly revolutionizing the bowling industry and attracting a new generation of bowlers.”
Shannon pretty much summarized recent events at AMF in two sentences: “We’re trying to preserve bowling’s viability in the long term. There will be some disruptions along the way.”