6 SHORTS • ZOT launches website • Carmen Salvino retires • Bar Rescue at Lucky 66 Bowl • Santa Cruz bowling museum • Bowl Expo cancels trade show
30 BUSINESS A New Partnership The historical agreement between QubicaAMF, World Bowling, and Kegel guarantees tournament uniformity By Jim Goodwin 16
By Patty Heath
34 CENTER STAGE A Not-So-Hidden Gem The Spare Room @500 Pearl opens in historic downtown Buffalo, NY
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‘Shocker’ Retirement Beloved WSU bowling coach, Gordon Vadakin, demanded studentathletes be good allaround people. Better bowling followed naturally.
36 BUSINESS SUCCESS Showing Up Better
By Mark Miller 22
Ron Hill and his Redemption Plus team’s latest version of success – elevating humanity through business By Fred Groh
46 REMEMBER WHEN
22 COVER STORY
Bowling in a Nutshell
Colie Edison, Bowlero, and the PBA
By Patty Heath
Together transforming the game and sport for a new generation By Robert Sax
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HOTLINE: 818-789-2695 SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One copy of International Bowling Industry is sent free to every bowling center, independently owned pro shop and collegiate bowling center in the U.S., and every military bowling center and pro shop worldwide. Publisher reserves the right to provide free subscriptions to those individuals who meet publication qualifications. Additional subscriptions may be purchased for delivery in the U.S. for $60 per year. Subscriptions for Canada and Mexico are $65 per year, all other foreign subscriptions are $80 per year. All foreign subscriptions should be paid in U.S. funds using International Money Orders. POSTMASTER: Please send new as well as old address to International Bowling Industry, P.O. Box 7350 Overland Park, KS 66207 USA. If possible, please furnish address mailing label. Printed in U.S.A. Copyright 2020, B2B Media, Inc. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the publisher’s permission.
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A Note to Our Customers, Readers, and Friends The past month has been a time like no other; the world, our lives, and our businesses have changed overnight. Yet, with one avenue lost, another is found. To our readers and clients, please know that IBI will continue to work tirelessly to support and promote bowling and the businesses that comprise one of the best industries. Even though centers have been ordered to close, and manufacturers are not selling as much product, IBI, through print and online, will give voice and visibility to get the bowling message out. We are in this together, and we will handle whatever comes our way together. As we ask for in our Goodwill Central section, we ask that you send us anything happening in your business as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on. Lighthearted photos, photos of you and your staff practicing social distancing, or photos of good deeds are all welcomed. You can send your photos and short captions to: email@example.com. Stay safe, wash your hands, and hug your loved ones.
BVL ADDS TO ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS BVL (Bowlers to Veterans Link) announced that Lisa Ciniello and David Kellerman will join the BVL Board of Directors effective immediately. Longtime board member Walter Hall will transition to Director Emeritus. Lisa Ciniello is the vice president of Bowling Management Associates (BMA) in Bonita Springs, FL. Ciniello also serves on the BPAA Food Committee and has been involved with MUBIG and the FEC20 Group. David Kellerman is the co-owner of Mel’s Lone Star Lanes in Lisa Ciniello Georgetown, TX. Over the past year, he made headlines with his Kilroy’s Appalachian Trail Hike for Veterans, raising more than $100,000 for BVL as the largest individual fundraiser in the charity’s history. He currently serves on the executive board of the Texas Bowling Centers Association and is a board member of the Greater Austin USBC Association. David Kellerman 6
PEOPLEWATCHING Brian Waliczek has joined the Western Bowling Proprietors Insurance (WBPI) team as a broker/agent for the state of Michigan. Waliczek comes from a bowling family: his grandfather owned two centers in Hutchinson, KS; his father coached the WSU bowling team, taking them to their first national title in the early 70s, and has owned Brian Waliczek and managed centers for the past 40+ years. His brother is a multiple PBA title holder, and his cousins, Billy Murphy and Chad Murphy, are well known in the industry. His own resume covers PBA bowling and three Eagles from USBC. It could be said that Waliczek knows his bowling! TrainerTainment, a renowned training and coaching company located in Fort Worth, TX, has added two new sales specialists to its staff: Krista Estes and Sonya Terry. Estes’ background includes management and training for Walmart at its Academy Operations training center. Her father, Jay Trietley, is a 40-year veteran of the bowling Krista Estes industry. Estes started her college studies on a scholarship from the Youth American Bowling Alliance. Terry has more than 16 years in the laser tag industry at Leisure Entertainment of Canada and 10 years in fashion retail. “Krista and Sonya know from experience the training and operating practices that lead to the success of an amusement center,” Sonya Terry says Beth Standlee, CEO of TrainerTainment, who touts their ability to help customers grow their sales and service teams. Trifecta Management Group’s (TMG) new director of marketing is Sarah Vigil. She has been with TMG since 2015, serving most recently as senior marketing manager. In her new role, she will design and support marketing and advertising efforts and will also serve as director of marketing for TMG’s marketing division, Trifecta Marketing Sarah Vigil Services (TMS), where she will oversee branding, marketing, and client relations. Vigil is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and has had experience building brands at plank, the acclaimed entertainment and dining venue in the Bay Area.
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BUSINESS AT LARGE BOWL EXPO TRADE SHOW CANCELLED As the world deals with the COVID-19 virus and the fall out to businesses, the BPAA has decided to cancel the trade show portion of Bowl Expo 2020, which is scheduled be held in Denver, CO. They will continue to evaluate the annual meeting, networking, and education portion of the show and will provide updates as necessary. Bowl Expo 2021 will be held in Louisville, KY, June 20-24. Deposits for this year’s show will be transferred to Bowl Expo 2021. If refunds are preferred, Justin Moore, director of meetings and events, can be reached at (817) 385-8449.
8 BEAT SABER GETS DISTRIBUTORSHIPS
8 BETSON’S LATEST AT AMUSEMENT EXPO
VRsenal, a manufacturer of unattended virtual reality arcade games, has two new distribution partners for the U.S. amusement market. Shaffer Distributing and American Vending Sales have both agreed to add VRsenal’s Beat Saber arcade game to their full lineup of amusement products.
Betson showcased its latest arcade equipment at Amusement Expo in New Orleans. The line-up features the premiere of BUST-A-MOVE Frenzy, the original bubblepopping game, and the action-packed and rowdy off-road racing game, Nitro Trucks.
8 KEGEL’S SPECTO GO
8 MICHIGAN RESORT INCLUDES BOWLING AND AXE THROWING
Kegel announced the release of Specto Go, a portable version of the Specto tracking and practice system for centers, bowlers, and coaches. The system is perfect for temporary set-ups and can be moved between different locations. The unit comes with a hard case for storage and transportation, as well as a laptop to run the system.
The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa has officially opened The Den, a 3,000square-foot entertainment center featuring two axe throwing lanes, four boutique bowling lanes, two virtual reality games, an Egyptian-themed escape room, assorted arcade games, and a bar/restaurant. Axe throwing came to prominence in Canada in the mid-2000s. The International Axe Throwing Federation claims to represent more than 10,000 active axe throwing league members spanning more than 125 cities across six countries.
ZOT LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE & PARTS PROMOTION ZOT Bowling Parts has launched a new website, www.zotbowlingparts.com, which showcases its expanded line of 82-30, 82-70, 82-90, A, A2, and Jetback parts. It is also linked to ZOT’s current March print media advertising, which features a redeemable coupon for a free sample product, either a distributor belt for pinspotters or a deck chute. See page 17 in IBI’s March issue. The new website comprises links to PDF files of brochures for seven ZOT product lines, including pinsetter and pinspotter parts and assemblies, pinspotter 10
control systems, electronic products, and easy to follow installation instructions to assist technicians when installing specific parts and assemblies. It is designed to serve as a valuable resource to owners and center technicians. To redeem the free sample noted in their March ad, simply log on to the new website, www.zotbowlingparts.com, enter contact information and the promotion code, and ZOT will send the free product. The promotion is valid for U.S.A. customers only and is offered while supplies last.
WHEN BOWLING’S AROUND, GOOD THINGS HAPPEN.
BVL is once again the beneficiary of the goodwill of six Bowland and HeadPinz Entertainment centers in southwest Florida, led by owners Pat and Lisa Ciniello. $46,000 was designated for Florida-based veterans’ services for recreation therapy programs addressing the emotional and physical needs of veterans and active-duty military. B’ville Sports Bowl in Baldwinsville, NY, raised $44,500 during their Van Wie Mixed Doubles Bowling Tournament. The funds went to the local Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) chapter which serves 2,500 families in 34 counties in western and central New York. A Super Sunday bowling tournament, the 5th annual Strike for a Wish at Clinton Lanes, in Lock Haven, PA, had a record 70 teams with 887 bowlers. Six local children have had their wishes come true over the past five years. The event raised $2,069 this year, totaling $11,000 over its history. This event was created by Dakotah Miller of Loganton as a senior project at Central Mountain High School for his brother Kyler, a senior at the school and a wish recipient, who battles Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction. The Lima Flag City Honor Flight took over 20th Century Lanes, in Lima, OH, for a fundraiser to try to take the Lima veterans to their place of honor, Washington, D.C. Mike
❤❤ ❤ ❤
Melvin, Lima Ambassador of Flag City Honor Flight says, “It brings closure to their military life. [For] a lot of these guys, it brings healing, especially the Vietnam era veterans. A lot of them have a lot of hurt in their heart that they’ve had for years, and Honor Flight brings pure healing to that and make this all worthwhile.” Bowl for Kids Sake is a Canadian tradition from coast to coast. This year, bowling centers in Lanark County, Ontario, were packed with over 876 bowlers and raised $90,000 to fund mentoring programs for local children’s charities. Centers participating were: Spare Room Bowling Lanes, Perth; Gratton Lanes, Smiths Falls; and Chasin’ Turkeys Bowling Alley, Carleton Place. Bowlers raised over $4,000 during the 13th annual Strike for the Cure bowling tournament held at Morrow Lanes, in Cardington, OH. The event supports the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Barn, Bowl and Bistro in Oak Bluffs, MA, hosted an event to benefit Vineyard House, founded in 1997, as a sober living community, helping those in the early stages of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. When good people and good things happen, ❤ ❤ ❤ bowling is around. ❤ ❤ ❤
What is your center doing? Email Patty Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STRIKE AND SPARE FAMILY FUN CENTER IS ‘WORLD’S GREATEST!...’ National television show “World’s Greatest!...” has awarded Strike and Spare in Hendersonville, TN, its world’s best family entertainment center. The show provides viewers with a behind-the-scenes look at the companies, people, and places that are making a difference throughout the world. The team at “World’s Greatest!...” goes through a stringent, multi-layered process to find the right companies, people, and places for the program. Strike and Spare was a perfect fit based on “the excitement they bring to their guests.” The program aired in January and February but can be watched online at worldsgreatesttelevision.com. Hendersonville Strike and Spare is one of 14 centers owned by former baseball executive and Nashville Sounds founder, Larry Schmittou. Schmittou stated that the credit should go to Crystal Moore, GM; Tracy Lambert, bowling manager; Chris Law; Michael Fish; and the 60
dedicated employees of the center. As a full FEC, the center emphasizes bowling. It has over 340,000 games bowled per year and over 1,200 league bowlers. It also offers laser tag; Lazer Frenzy; roller skating; bumper cars; four-station bungee trampoline; and a virtual reality roller coaster. The center also hosts over 1,500 birthday parties; over 100 school field trips; numerous activities for special needs; and dozens of corporate parties per year. The corporate headquarters, L&S Family Entertainment, plan on opening another Strike and Spare in Murfreesboro, TN.
WATCH SCOOBY-DOO ALERT Scooby fans can’t wait to rush to local theaters to view Scoob. All kinds of Scooby characters reside in this feature: Dick Dastardly, Blue Falcon and assistant, Dee Dee Sykes, plus Dynomutt, the Wonder Dog, and even the Addams family and the Munsters have brief moments. For bowlers, the Takamoto Bowl, an homage to Iwao Takamoto, the original designer of the Scooby gang as well as other Hanna-Barbera characters, plays a prominent role. You can find the Takamoto Bowl right next door to Peebles Pet Shop.
BAR RESCUE AT LUCKY 66 BOWL Jon Taffer and his crew went to Albuquerque, NM, to rescue Lucky 66 Bowl. The combo bar and bowling lanes, owned by Vietnam vet Mike Draper, had financial woes and was on the verge of shutting down. The August 2019 Season 7 episode of Bar Rescue can be seen online. New Center Consulting’s POS stations, the only equipment that remained after the refresh, are given prominence. According to Glenn Hartshorn, whose company, New Center Consulting, has done other projects with Bar Rescue, shared that Taffer, the host, liked the center and Mike so much, he gave him $10,000 in cash.
OVIEDO LANES OVIEDO, FL (24 LANES)
CARMEN SALVINO RETIRES
Pete Dougherty of timesunion.com stated in his column that if you haven’t seen the emotional end to the illustrious career of Carmen Salvino, “take a visit to YouTube. It is worth the trouble.” By taking part in the Tournament of Champions in Fairlawn, OH, in February, Salvino, 86, extended his record of being the oldest bowler to compete in a PBA event. It was the 734th PBA Tour event of his career, with his first in 1959 at the Empire State Open at Schade’s Academy in Albany, NY. Salvino is one of 33 charter members of the PBA.
‘WORLD’S SMALLEST BOWLING MUSEUM’ Santa Cruz, a California coastal town approximately 70 miles south of San Francisco, has opened a small bowling museum on Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The exhibit, housed inside the Boardwalk Bowl, showcases the history of bowling by the beach with a display of artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. In February 2001, the Vienna Boys Choir bowled at Surf Bowl on the way to Los Angeles, after performing in Santa Clara. A pin, signed by all the boys, can be seen at the museum.
We congratulate Kurt van Zyl & Ed Klamp in acquiring this fine center. Thank you to Bob and Sue Wentworth for trusting David Driscoll and the Hansell Group to facilitate the sale. We wish all parties the best in the future.
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Bowling in the area dates back to 1909 when Victor A. Marini operated a 4-lane duckpin alley along the Boardwalk. The Marini family is also known for their saltwater taffy and local candy shops.
Storied bowling coach, Gordon Vadakin, pictured with his final collegiate team, the 2018-2019 WSU bowling team
‘SHOCKER’ RETIREMENT Beloved WSU bowling coach, Gordon Vadakin, demanded student-athletes be better all-around people. Better bowling followed naturally. By Mark Miller
o synonymous has he been with Wichita State University (WSU) and college bowling, it was hard to comprehend the message Gordon Vadakin posted on Facebook on May 14, 2019, soon after emailing his former student-athletes. After nearly 46 years at the school and 20 national titles, he told the world he was retiring. He had decided it was time to spend more time with his wife Cindy; his daughter, Andrea, her husband, Raja, and their two children, Ryan and Elora; and son Kenny and his new bride, Cara. “It’s been an unbelievably fun, awesome ride with our student-athletes and all of our stakeholders for nearly 46 years here at our home — Rhatigan Student Center,” he wrote. “It truly doesn’t feel that long to me, as we’ve been so passionately involved with improving our athletes, our teams, and our program – that looking at calendars didn’t seem very important. I’m excited to be with my family more than I’ve been able to be. Also, Cindy and I have plans to travel a bunch and see things (not just the inside of a bowling center). So basically, just old, retired-guy things.” Though it was inevitable, the news didn’t seem real. Vadakin is one of those ageless people, destined to coach forever. While nobody could deny that at age 66 he deserves 16
Gordon Vadakin with wife Cindy
PROFILE a good retirement, it is just hard to imagine what the bowling world will be like without him. “I think Coach V put so much of himself into the program. He sacrificed so much of himself to his program and his students that I think that became part of him,” said Matt McNiel, a 2015 graduate and part-time pro. “He never viewed it as a job. It was always a labor of love. And I think that’s why he was able to do it for 46 years. Beyond all of the championships, his true legacy is the many people who have gone on to succeed both on and off the lanes. “You can’t underestimate his influence on the bowling industry,” said PBA and USBC Hall of Famer Chris Barnes, Class of 1992. “Without a doubt, I would not be where I am today or had as successful a run without the choices he made and the help he gave me. I’m just one person out of literally thousands that he’s touched.” Vadakin always preached the value of the team over the individual and worked with his athletes, not only on their physical games, but their mental game, psychological approaches, and skills that prepared them for life. He prided himself on managing a complete, well-rounded program. “The mental part was staying positive, setting goals, and selfaffirmations,” said 15-time PBA titlist Sean Rash, who bowled at WSU from 2000-2004. “I say things to myself all the time, for example, ‘I want to be a PBA champion,’ ‘I want to be a world champion.’ Those things have gone a long way for [me] and [it] all started in college. A lot of things I do on tour I learned in college.” Barnes and Rash are among a growing number of his players who have gone on to succeed on the pro tours. Barnes, along with past WSU Shockers Pat Healey Jr., Steve Kloempken, and Rick Steelsmith made the USBC Hall of Fame. But he’s also influenced pro shop and bowling center owners and managers, and others involved in the marketing and design of bowling balls and other equipment: Kloempken is at Storm Products; John Hardman and Russ Wilson are with Jayhawk Bowling Products; David Garber is at International Bowling Industry magazine; and Chrissy Kent owns Rose Bowl Lanes in Newark, NY. “Obviously he wants everybody to be better bowlers. But it was his focus on being better, period,” Barnes said. “If you’re better at life, you’ll be better at bowling. They’re not separate; they’re related. If you can’t succeed in the classroom and be disciplined to do what you need to do there, then you probably aren’t going to do what you need to do to be successful later on. He set a standard, not only in how he conducted his business, but how he taught his players to conduct theirs.”
“Gordon taught me a lot about life — the ups, the downs, and the challenges,” Rash said. “For me, I came from Alaska, so Mom and Dad were a long way from school. Gordon was like a father figure for a long time because I saw him four to five days a week. I had a lot of success before I came to Wichita as a junior player. [When I got to WSU] they tore my game apart, and I was miserable. But he taught me how to persevere through [adversity] and set some goals. It’s just cool to call him a friend.” Vadakin always has kept up with his former players either in person, by telephone, or by text. Vadakin started at WSU as a player in 1973, then became player-coach for two years and finally the full-time coach and director of the program. “He’s meant so much to the sport and to the lives of his players,” McNiel added. “And it’s not just at WSU. It’s people on Team USA and coaching all over the world. He’s just meant so much to the sport of bowling.” Kloempken becomes emotional when talking about his former college coach. Kloempken started college part-time at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas while he worked in a pro shop part-time. Kloempken met Vadakin when Vadakin was an assistant coach for Team USA. Vadakin suggested he come to WSU and bowl full-time and go to school full-time which would allow Kloempken to earn his degree much faster. “It ended up being the best decision I ever made,” said
Kloempken, now Storm’s technical director. Kloempken later used the knowledge he gained under Vadakin to open up a pro shop in Wichita and work for Storm, USBC, and Storm again. Without Vadakin’s invitation to come to Wichita, Kloempken might have become a bartender back in Las Vegas. Holly Hall, a 1993 graduate who bowled as Holly Hampe, used what she learned from Vadakin to earn an industrial engineering degree in the aerospace component manufacturing industry in Wichita. “He had such a passion for his job that it made me understand I had to have a passion whatever career I was going to be in order to be successful,” said Hall, who is married to former WSU player James Hall. Had Josh Blanchard not come to Vadakin’s program, he likely continued on page 20... IBI
PROFILE ...continued from page 17
said. “I wanted his opinion, to ask if this was a good choice, a good path.” “He allows you to be yourself. He doesn’t try to change you,” said Chrissy Kent, co-owner of Rose Bowl Lanes with husband and USBC Hall of Famer Doug Kent. Chrissy originally planned to play tennis at Ferris State University in her native Sturgis, MI, when a knee injury changed those plans. So she followed sister Leslie Bohn, wife of Parker Bohn III, to WSU. “I guess my comfort with the [WSU] Shocker program and knowing Gordon made it an easy decision,” Kent said. “Being 12-14 hours away from home, he made [me] feel comfortable, and a part of a family like none other.” Gordon Vadakin’s legacy isn’t just the 20
would not have become a three-time PBA champion, a successful instructor, or co-authored the 2017 book Bowling: Energy in Motion. “I really didn’t know much about the mental game until I got to WSU, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book all about the psychological side of bowling,” Blanchard said. “He made such an impact on my life for who I am today, not just as a bowling coach, but also a mentor. He looked at the big picture of life [not just that moment]. He made sure I had a career, that I was focused not only on winning the national championships, but doing right by him, the program, and doing well in school.”
Vadakin at the USBC Hall of Fame
One estimate is that there are 24 currently-married couples who bowled for Vadakin, including the Halls and Jake Peters and Melissa Hurst. “Coach Vadakin will always be one of the most influential men in my life,” said Peters, a 2010 graduate. “He taught me how to plan, prepare, stay in the moment, but also look to the future. Wichita State is like a family, and he’s the head of that family. He made that team a family.” Vadakin actively plays a role in former student-athletes lives. For example, Russ Wilson became Jayhawk Bowling Products pro shop brand manager in 2006 thanks to his WSU connections. Since then, Wilson has become a Master instructor and president of the International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association. “I called Gordon before accepting this job,” Wilson 20
national titles he brought home to WSU. It’s the Shocker bowling’ program he guided, loved, and transformed into the greatest bowling “family” of all time. ❖
Mark Miller is a freelance writer, editor, and public relations specialist from Flower Mound, TX. He's the author of Bowling: America's Greatest Indoor Pastime available at Amazon.com.
, the PBA’s new ith Colie Edison w e id -s ne la ts , si ), Bowlero CEO (third from left Tom Shannon
COLIEN, EDISO RO, BOWLE E H T D AN
Together transforming the game and sport for a new generation 22
By Robert Sax “
hat’s good for General Motors is good for the country,” is one way to look at Bowlero’s recent acquisition of the Professional Bowlers Association. The world’s largest operator of bowling centers’ bold move means more media exposure, more prize money, and more opportunities for professional bowlers, and that’s a good thing for the pros, the game, and its fans. Colie Edison, Bowlero’s chief customer officer and now CEO of the PBA as well, thinks what’s good for the PBA is also a good thing for consumers and recreational bowling. “From a high level, what we hope the PBA will do is increase the relevancy of bowling,” says Edison. “More bowling on television at a higher quality level, you’re going to have more people talking about bowling. You’re going to have more people watching bowling. And you’re going to hopefully have more Bowlero’s CEO of the PBA Colie Edison
COVER STORY people going bowling.” Bowlero claims 28 million guests annually at its centers but many of those bowl just once a year. “Bowling is this unique entity that can be all things to all people, but people just don’t do it frequently enough,” Edison says. “It’s really about reintroducing bowling back into the mindset of our consumer as something that they need to do or would want to do more than once a year. If you can increase that to two or three times, you’re talking multiple turns when it comes to revenue.” More PBA events on FOX Sports Television is the center pocket of Edison’s strategy. FOX has helped the PBA design a season that should increase viewership by presenting more bowling more often. The current season started in February 2020 and there was a PBA event every weekend that month on FOX network or FOX Sports One. The World Series of Bowling will air five nights in a row and the PBA league games and playoffs will get lots of coverage including multiple repeats.
PBA CEO Colie Edison with champ Jason Belmonte
Colie holds the bowling world in her capable hands
“FOX is really giving us a ton of opportunity. They very much support the sport and they’re big believers in the PBA,” says Edison. “We love the relationship we have with FOX and we’re excited to grow that partnership.” The PBA’s deal with FOX runs until 2022. Bowlero will bolster its FOX coverage by streaming PBA events with an eye to grabbing younger viewers who have cut the TV cord. “We also have a great partner in our streaming platform, FloBowling. It’s part of FloSports, and with Flo we’re
able to live stream the qualifying rounds of our major tournaments. This is another way that you’re going to be able to reach the deeply engaged audience.” Edison believes that increased media exposure for bowling will entice more people onto the lanes. What will keep them coming back will be the social aspect of bowling and the desire among younger consumers to combine games with socializing. “You can go to a movie theater and you’re going to be entertained. You can go to dinner and it’s going to be really social. But bowling is the only activity that combines the two and allows you to have a socialtainment experience,“ says Edison. The same idea is behind the roaring success of TopGolf, where you can enjoy golfing with friends even if you have never before held a club in your hand. League play at Bowlero is another category that should benefit from its acquisition of the PBA. Edison says that league play has already been on the rise, and indeed current industry wisdom indicates that leagues are making a comeback via such innovative offerings as short season formats. Bowlero has a number of those along with specialty offerings like the GR8 Times Bowling League and the Lousy Bowlers Club. Part of that growth is due to the efforts of an internal Bowlero team dedicated to growing league bowling. “We’re always looking to expand league bowling at our centers and continued on page 26... IBI
COVER STORY ...continued from page 23
in fact we have grown it year over year consistently for the past five years,” says Edison. Edison refutes the idea that open play and league play are incompatible in the same location. “We have a great center in Milford, CT, where half of the house [is] able to have the lights on and [has] the perfect conditions for a league bowler. [In] the other half of the house, the lights are down, the music is on, and it’s that cosmic experience. I think what operators have been challenged with is having to think of it in black and white when the truth is there’s a lot of gray.” In theory, exciting professional bowling drives consumers to try bowling themselves, and Bowlero’s co-branding with the PBA primes them to seek out one of those 300 Bowlero centers. It’s similar to the strategy that NASCAR used to help Detroit sell cars with its “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” marketing mantra. “If you watch bowling you will want to do it,” says Edison. Furthermore there’s no need to wait until Monday, because people who watch on a Sunday morning can bowl for real on Sunday night. Once they have bowled at Bowlero, the socialtainment experience is what will convince them to come back again and again. That growing captive audience of customers is where Edison sees business opportunities that go well beyond Bowlero’s ambitious acquisition and makeover of bowling centers around the country. The most obvious benefit is the opportunity for Bowlero to sell bowling balls, shoes, and apparel to new bowlers at in-house pro shops. Sales of gear endorsed by the top PBA pros should grow as a result. “There’s such huge synergies between the center business and the television product,” says Edison. Those include PBA sponsorship deals that could include allowing sponsors to offer information about their products at kiosks in Bowlero’s centers. Edison wants to expand the PBA’s official sponsorship deals to include such non-endemic products as the official PBA insurance agency, beer, or car. It’s been a successful move for other pro sports leagues, like the NFL and NBA, and could work well for the PBA, too. The next level of opportunity is represented by the thousands of video screens above the lanes in Bowlero centers, which customers spend one to three hours per visit looking at. “If [a sponsor] has assets or commercials that they might not be able to play because of cord-cutting on cable television, and they want a new audience for those spots, they can run them on our TVs,” says Edison. “For the first time ever we are giving advertisers and sponsors the potential to buy media within our four walls.” In addition to PBA broadcasts, Bowlero has also developed the expertise to generate its own programming for distribution on everything from in-center monitors to customers’ handheld devices. Edison and her team have learned a lot 26
COVER STORY about program development and production over the last couple of years by making their own shows. The first was its “Live on the Lanes” limited series, a digital-age “Bowling for Dollars” that allowed customers watching online to win cash based on the accomplishments of the show’s competing amateur bowlers. Next came the Bowlero Elite Series, a pro-am tournament series that allowed talented bowlers from Bowlero’s inhouse leagues to go head-to-head with such top pros as Jason Belmonte and Shannon O’Keefe for $1,000,000 in total prize money. NBC Sports Network ran three of the tournaments in 2019. PBA CEO Colie Edison with Bowlero CEO Tom Shannon during a media blitz “I think [our shows] were immensely helpful in helping us understand production around bowling,” says Edison, “for my team to understand the opportunities with production, filming on the lanes, and ways to push out a media message. They were great preps for what we were stepping up to do.” Edison also believes Bowlero can carve out a portion of the booming esports category for bowling. To whet fans’ appetites, there is the PBA’s mobile game PBA Bowling Challenge that has been downloaded almost 28 million times and PBA Pro Bowling for console play on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam. Bowlero is taking gaming a big step further by entering into a first-of-itskind mobile esports partnership with UK-based game producer Skillz to launch a mobile game called Strike! By Bowlero. The game merges the physical and digital worlds, extending the Bowlero bowling experience beyond physical locations while bringing sponsored esports tournaments to the Bowlero bowling centers. Supported by a nationwide marketing effort, Bowlero will invite its customers to download Strike! and compete for prizes and bonuses at its Colie poses on the lanes for a PBA tournament aired on FOX centers, creating a fun and Sports Colie and Tom Clark, PBA commissioner, record a interactive physical-to-digital segment on FloBowling experience for bowlers on and sounds like a modern media business driven by off the lanes. a high-profile consumer brand. That could be The PBA, original programming, esports competition, and in-house ad very good for Bowlero, the PBA, and everyone network could result in making what Edison refers to as Bowlero Sports and else in bowling. ❖ Entertainment the first media company in bowling. She defines that as a company that is creating, producing, or distributing content to different audiences. “It’s really a multidimensional, multichannel opportunity. And it’s how we fit really nicely in that media space,” Edison says. “We’re able to distribute Robert Sax is a writer and PR consultant in Los Angeles. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, content because we’re going to be able to put an advertiser’s messaging the home of five-pin bowling. on our screens, in our emails, on our digital [content] and so I think that’s a really unique place that no one else in our industry can really say they are.” While that may not sound like your father’s bowling industry, it sure 28
MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER IN UNCERTAIN
Chris Chartrand, president of Kegel
World Bowling’s CEO Andrew Oram
Interviews for this story were conducted amid government and private sector shutdowns and rapidly changing health reports from the U.S. and across the globe regarding the COVID19 virus pandemic.
QubicaAMF inks historic deal with World Bowling, and then COVID-19 ensues
Pat Ciniello, chairman of QAMF
By Jim Goodwin
new partnership, which was explained in a Memorandum of Understanding, makes QubicaAMF the exclusive supplier of capital bowling equipment, lane maintenance and technology, and event venues for all World Bowling Championships and World Bowling Tour Finals, including Zone Championships, the QubicaAMF World Cup, and the new ParaBowling World Cup (PWC) which is officially recognized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The PWC will run as a stand-alone event in direct relationship to the QubicaAMF World Cup; the PWC will be in the same location as the QubicaAMF World Cup each year. In 2020, these two events will be hosted in Kuwait, November 8-21, 2020. “We are very excited about our new deal with World Bowling,” said QubicaAMF chairman Pat Ciniello. “I’m sure World Bowling CEO Andrew Oram can tell you much more, but we think this will be an enormous boost toward achieving bowling’s Olympic goals. World Bowling has come close in the past, and this time we want to help them cross the finish line. Our primary business is developing and selling products, but we are also passionate about the sport, and we believe together we can get it done.”
BUSINESS “This is momentous for World Bowling,” said World Bowling CEO Andrew Oram in the recent press release about the new partnership. He went on to say that QubicaAMF is an innovative leader in the industry that shares World Bowling’s passion for the sport, and looks forward to working with QubicaAMF centers across the globe to increase the awareness and participation levels in World Bowling events.
A THIRD PARTNER MAKES THE DEAL EVEN STRONGER In a later announcement, QubicaAMF Worldwide, in agreement with World Bowling, confirmed that Kegel will continue to be the official lane maintenance provider, including lane preparation and lane conditioning, for the following World Bowling tournaments: World Youth Championships, QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup, International ParaBowling World Cup, and World Bowling Tour Finals. “As a partner to World Bowling for many years, we are pleased to extend this relationship as official lane maintenance provider for their events,” said Kegel president Chris Chartrand. “It’s clear World Bowling is forging [ahead] in an exciting, new direction, and when you combine three great organizations like Kegel, QubicaAMF, and World Bowling, I’m confident international bowling will reach new heights.”
CHALLENGING TIMES AHEAD As this monumental deal goes forward, it is impossible to predict how it will be affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic crisis, but all three partners involved sound optimistic. “The partnership with QubicaAMF has started off in a period where the world faces unprecedented challenges,” said Oram. “To be able to liaise and discuss the many scenarios facing the industry with QubicaAMF is such a valuable asset as we take this opportunity to consolidate our position today. Our focus is now to use our time wisely to engage with as many people as possible to mould and shape a strong future for the sport.” With our nation and our bowling industry mired in uncertainty, Ciniello is on the phone, talking to fellow bowling center proprietors, to suppliers, to BPAA officials, and to members of the media. He has also been talking with his QubicaAMF partners in Richmond, VA, and in Italy. In Europe, Ciniello reports that the daily routine is virtually shut down. The partnership is huge news in the industry, but it will likely get delayed until the COVID19 pandemic is over. “Needless to say, this is a very difficult time for everyone,” said Ciniello. 32
“We are doing everything we can to communicate with our bowling center customers and others, but things are happening so fast it is almost impossible to keep up. We are especially concerned about our senior league bowlers in Florida, and the majority of them have already suspended their season. As you know, many tournaments and events have been cancelled and postponed. We just cannot predict the future right now.” “The COVID-19 [pandemic] comes at a time where there have been many changes within the bowling industry, but the main concern is the financial welfare and security of proprietors who will have been forced to close their doors for variable periods of time,” said Oram. “This virus also affects the athletes who travel the world to make a living from participating in global events. It is imperative that we spend time consolidating the remaining portfolio so that when we emerge from the current lockdowns there is a sensible and clear list of events that enable our member federations and hosts to welcome the sport’s best athletes.” “Across the globe, businesses and individuals are facing challenges like we have never seen,” said Chartrand. “None of us have experience with a situation quite like this one, so in the absence of experience, we’re leaning on our values as guidance. During this difficult time, we’re thinking about the health and safety of our employees, how to help our customers, and ways to creatively navigate the financial impact. Every decision is a delicate balance. We remain optimistic while still preparing for the less desirable possibilities we may face in the coming weeks and months. The bowling industry is incredible, and I’m encouraged daily by the strength and resiliency coming my way from across the industry. We’ll see everyone on the other side.” ❖
Jim Goodwin is the founder and president of the Bowling News Network and a former president and life member of the International Bowling Media Association.
A NOT-SO-HIDDEN The Spare Room@500 Pearl opens in historic downtown Buffalo, NY
By Jackie Frager
n downtown Buffalo at the historic 500 Pearl building, bowling makes a comeback. The structure dates back to 1914 and was originally built for Buffalo’s Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE). 500 Pearl became a beloved gathering spot for the growing membership of the FOE, and recreation was added, for example, billiards, a lounge, and a library. The building has been repurposed twice, and now, in a third act, it has become the anchor of the Buffalo theater district. “Mixed-use” describes the new 500 Pearl. With two bars, a restaurant, the Aloft Hotel, luxury apartments, commercial spaces, and meeting spaces, the Spare Room@500 Pearl is a welcome addition to the entertainment offerings. Opened at the end of 2019, the Spare Room @ 500 Pearl is already captivating Buffalo’s locals. The custom, black lane Switch® center is located in the basement of the building. The Spare Room offers 8 lanes of black pinstripe-designed lanes, alongside Pininfarina-designed silver ball returns and black double bowlers’ consoles, fitted with the latest Switch® Genie software. The Spare Room’s elegant concept puts modern, family entertainment on the map in Buffalo. ❖
It’s always fun at Redemption Plus, especially at Halloween
SHOWING UP BETTER Ron Hill and his Redemption Plus team’s latest version of success – elevating humanity through business By Fred Groh
on Hill, CEO of Redemption Plus, calls himself “a word guy.” He ticks off some words about feeling down and says he wouldn’t use any of them to describe how he felt during the years of self-identified “stagnation” at his company. “When things aren’t working the way they [should], I don’t typically let that go. Were there times when I wondered whether we would figure it out? Yeah, but for the most part, in 23 years, we figured it out. Was there stress? Absolutely, but we’re pretty good at iterating.” ‘Redeem’ means taking back, recovering something of value. It’s important to know that, if you want to understand the way things turned out at Redemption Plus. “We figured it out pretty quickly. It just took us a number of years to align around purpose and people in our organization that had our core values.” Once again, Hill and his team became innovators, at the same time re-dedicating themselves to three core values.
Into the Air He remembers as a kid selling door to door “everything you could possibly sell,” from greeting cards to seeds. “I was always looking at the world and if something didn’t make sense to me, I tried to put it back together again in a way that made sense,” says the once and future entrepreneur. After five years or so working at computer-training franchise in Seattle, he sold out 36
BUSINESS SUCCESS and came home to Kansas City, looking for a fresh opportunity. He ran across the founder of a kids’ entertainment chain, Discovery Zone, that Hill describes as “tubes and cubes,” and from him got his first look at the fledgling FEC industry. “At the same time I had a brother that was selling product at Sylvan Learning [tutoring] Centers. Sylvan has student stores very much like redemption centers. Kids come in and trade their tokens or ticket for product.” The two concepts plus Hill’s computer background rhymed nicely. Redemption Plus’s core values ensure a happy, successful business team In 1996, he and brother Brad Owen set up shop in their parents’ basement. They spent “a good six months” examining How did he judge these successes when they were brand local FECs, trying to understand where there was opportunity new? “We’ve always been a company very focused on our to improve efficiency. “Fortunately, the opportunity was relationship with the customer and not what is going on in the limitless,” he says. rest of the industry. So we at that time would probably have been “In the beginning most of our time was spent developing looking at our own growth metrics, and back then it was sales.” a software program that would be able to run a business. It was But from that perspective, there was also the shadow of a way to curate our product—actually, we probably would stagnation ahead. have said [in those days] it was a way to build a product assortment—and a way for us to sell,” says the word guy with Stalled a computer history. “From the beginning, we had this notion that people could A couple of things happened, Hill recounts. be more efficient having a streamlined product source, being “We had always been way ahead of the curve—technology, able to buy most everything you need from one vendor, and ideas—to the point where we just stopped because we felt we that we would then be able to deliver that to you with were way ahead of everybody. We just got complacent your retail information on it or your ticket amount. with our own growth internally and [that] part of the This was our first iteration on how we take part stagnation was just operational.” of what our customers do in their operations And on the other side of the coin, “We’ve and simplify that for them.” That word been very external, focused on the customer again. By ‘iteration’ he means continual and how we make him more efficient. There improvement. was a point where it wasn’t necessarily Industry firsts came right along. Hill efficient for us. There’s a point where you decided Redemption Plus would not have a have to become super-efficient operationally catalog but instead everything would be and we kind of missed that internally.” posted on a website. “No one in our industry So Hill turned the company inward, “went was using technology in that way,” he reports. internal to understand who we needed to be in A second advance, about 2004, was called order to deliver what the customer needed. DPL, digital packing list. It saved Redemption “We came around to understand what our The Conscious Capitalism graph Plus customers from having to manually update purpose was, which was why we started the explains the idea of elevating their redemption status data. Today, it’s company. And [today] we align everything around humanity through business conventional across the industry. a company purpose and core values. We can pull Around 2009, an idea for online redemption. Go into the in what we need to fulfill the purpose that can innovate and drive game room, play the games, collect your tickets, cash them in efficiency at the same time.” for prizes online. You don’t have to wait at a redemption The purpose and the core values are as entrepreneurial as counter. “Not that it wasn’t a good idea but technology-wise the mechanics of the business. I think people weren’t quite ready for that.” First Things First But these are not really developments, says Hill. “I don’t feel like there’s a lot of tiny little steps [in the company’s history]. “I get up every morning and think about how I can put you It’s iterating. Making what we’re doing, better.” guys out of business,” a competitor once told Hill. He thought 38
BUSINESS SUCCESS In Flight Again
Redemption Plus’s Lenexa, KS, headquarters simulates a model redemption store.
that was “interesting,” because “I get up every morning and I think about how I can enrich the lives of my team and how we can make the world a better place.” He is being thoughtful, not saccharine. Hill is a strong advocate of “conscious capitalism,” a view of free enterprise as heroic. In the words of the Conscious Capitalism movement, “We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived.” “Conscious capitalism is this idea of elevating humanity through business,” explains Hill. It’s about making profits and increasing shareholder wealth and building individuals and communities. “The people that work on our fulfillment team are some of the most amazing and innovative people we have,” Hill says by way of illustration, “so we try to lift those people up. We pay them above a living wage and everybody in our organization is treated the same, treated fair and give an opportunity to live and grow. It’s about enriching lives, which is our purpose. I want people to be able to live a life beyond what they ever imagined they would be able to do. To me, this is what this is all about. That’s the piece I’m so passionate about.” Not that he doesn’t want to make money. He wants to do both, he stresses. And among his tools for doing them are three core values. Being “customer-centric” speaks for itself. And it’s usually talking about company focus or customer efficiency. Why “a growth mindset”? Because the company is intent on “how we can show up in the world better each day. So a growth mindset for each individual and as a company.” “Playfulness” is not just playing around in the office, although it seems that Redemption Plus staff enjoy their jobs. It’s like being a kid at heart. “Playfulness is about curiosity and understanding how the world works and how we can show up better for our customers. Kids are curious. I think when you’re playing a game you’re being a kid at heart. When we’re curious we understand the world better and we can create better solutions for our customers.” 40
Looking inward, recovering and sharpening the core values, resuming the company’s arc of innovation and constant improvement, years 2015 through 2017 were spent on tough work to ignite Redemption Plus again. An industry first was proprietary packages that combine the company’s educational services. The packages won a Brass Ring at last year’s IAAPA show. A website in development when we talked to Hill will have an indexing system that ranks merchandise items by performance, again proprietary. It will be both a service to Redemption Plus customers and a way to evolve the merchandise line. “Storyboards” are pre-arranged merchandise layouts that a customer can choose. The warehouse at the 80,000-square-foot Lenexa, KS, headquarters has been overhauled with a variety of proprietary systems to streamline fulfillment. The design service creates custom redemption spaces. Looking back over Redemption Plus’s 23 years, Hill says that from the very beginning, the company’s target has been improved efficiency for the customer. “Because that’s the unspoken need of the customer. It’s a complicated system. There’s typically teenagers working the redemption counter and it’s an area where they can have high turnover, so we want to take the headaches away from our customer. It’s what we’ve studied. On our side it’s fairly complicated; from the customer’s side, it should just feel simple and easy.” By the ol’ reliable standard, too, Redemption Plus is a first-rate operation. “It was a huge learning experience for me, to find out that probably the majority of the profitability of my company was inside, not about selling more but about how we become more efficient.” ❖
Fred Groh is a regular contributor to IBI and former managing editor of the magazine.
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REDEMPTION REFILL KITS
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Betson’s BUST-A-MOVE Frenzy, the much loved, ORIGINAL bubble-Popping game is back in the Arcade!. Officially licensed from Taito, BUST-A-MOVE Frenzy features all new 2-player co-op Frenzy play. Players can team up and bubble up to a new High score with amazing power-ups and relentless Frenzy play. It is fun for everyone with a 10-foot-tall LED screen, 2-seated, player positions with reliable force-feedback bubble shooters, and 60,000 LED lights that attract players like a magnet. Call Customer Service at (800) 768-8952.
New for 2020 is Steltronic Instant Messaging. From any Focus workstation, you can send an instant message to the lane monitors, and you decide how long the message remains on the overhead LCD monitors. For league secretaries: the front desk can send an instant message to the lanes stating that a league meeting will take place at a certain place, at a certain time. For food service: Snack bar employees can announce to players on a particular lane, “Your pizza is ready for pickup in the snack bar.” For more information (800) 942-5939 or email@example.com. For more than 40+ years, we are YOUR bowling center management specialists.
IBI April 2020
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his full-page ad tickled my heart strings. To be honest, I am not sure what it was for. Clothes? Even the date is unknown. However, the sweet comments are identifiable and relatable. Can you find that little kid that lurks inside you and point to them? I’ve got a couple that jump out right away, especially the upper-left-corner, armscrossed, petulant Patty. If nothing more, this gaggle of youngsters will make you smile. ❖ - Patty Heath