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There’s a reason the entertainment side of bowling is on such a roll

A Pinz employee provides help to a customer.
A Pinz employee provides help to a customer.
Fred Eisenhammer

This isn’t going to sit well with all the many league bowlers, but the tide of momentum is definitely on the side of the party and dating experience. And it’s picking up speed.

It’s really all about money and the bottom line for bowling centers. AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. fell into bankruptcy twice in 10 years, finally being rescued by upstart Bowlmor a year ago. With only six Bowlmor bowling centers, it appeared unimaginable that upscale Bowlmor could step in, show the way and save the AMF behemoth, but that’s exactly what’s happened.

In an industry that’s being squeezed for profits, the party and dating atmosphere can reap huge rewards for bowling houses. This entertainment experience has been found to be more financially rewarding than league play for bowling centers, and that truly must be discouraging for serious-minded bowlers who are trying to develop their skills.

Still, Bowlmor AMF Chief Executive, Chairman and President Tom Shannon provided some comfort for league players after Thursday's news that his company was purchasing Brunswick Corp.’s retail centers.

“We embrace bowling as an entertainment experience and are focused on elevating bowling as a category, bringing it back into popular culture as well as furthering our commitment to league play,” said Shannon in part, following the Brunswick sale.

Still, it’s easy to see why bowling centers have embraced the entertainment side – while still offering some league play. Consider the experience of a couple who went Saturday night to Pinz Bowling Center in Studio City on a date.

After waiting for more than a half-hour, the couple was charged $28 for the 45 minutes they spent on this night of cosmic bowling (dim lights, glow-in-the-dark pins, etc.).

That came out to $9 a game plus $5 for shoe rental for each player. (Rates per game vary per time and day.) Admittedly, the couple enjoyed themselves immensely because high scores were not the sole objective. And they apparently enjoyed the chaos of players who neglected basic courtesy rules and bowled at the same time as their neighbors. After all, who could see very well in the darkness?

Pinz, by the way, has been cited as one of the 15 “coolest” bowling centers in the country by Pinz was praised for successfully luring movie stars, rockers and other celebrities to its center.

Also Pinz was complimented because “each of the 32 lanes has runner lights and pins that glow in the dark, and above are spinning disco balls and a laser light show.”

Pinz offers league bowling, but Saturday night was far from ideal for those who wanted to work on their game. It was chaos, after all.

Oh, one other thing: That bowling couple at Pinz wanted some water but there was no water cooler to be found in the bowling center.

But bottled water was readily available – for $2.40.

It sure seemed as if bowlers were getting soaked on this night at Pinz, but no one seemed to care. They were having fun – and that’s not good news for league bowlers.

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