International Bowling Industry Magazine July 2021 Issue

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Jodi and Jason Altman, proprietors of Gage Bowl in Los Angeles, love their new online reservation system.


August 2021 | VOL 29.8


Sander van Muiswinkel and Bas van Oldenborgh, proprietors of Bison Bowl





Cover Story


By Patty Heath, David Garber, Natalie Davis, and Stephanie Davis

Don’t Make Them Wait! Bowlers want to book online By Robert Sax



Feature Investment, Innovation, and Imagination Bison Bowl in the Netherlands comes through the pandemic By Paul Lane

Human Resources

46 Remember When 1961 Stran-Steel By Patty Heath

6 Leadership Lessons of Parenthood Parenting might just be the best training for leaders yet By Candi Kelley


P.O. Box 7350 Overland Park, KS 66207 (818) 789-2695(BOWL) Fax (818) 789-2812



36 Youth Bowling Preparing Kids for the Future Jeff and Sonia Wirtz’s Great Lakes Junior Gold Tour celebrates 10 years By Mark Miller



CONTRIBUTORS Natalie Davis Stephanie Davis David Garber Patty Heath Candi Kelley Paul Lane Mark Miller Robert Sax Cary Tosello



ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION Designworks (818) 735-9424

FOUNDER Allen Crown (1933-2002)

41 Showcase 4


August 2021



BUSINESS AT LARGE 8 WBPI ANNOUNCES 7TH STATE BPA EXCLUSIVE ENDORSEMENT Western Bowling Proprietors Insurance (WBPI) is proud to announce their 7th exclusive endorsement by a state bowling proprietors association. The Bowling Centers Association of Michigan (BCAM) now exclusively endorses WBPI to their member centers for property, casualty, liquor liability, and worker’s compensation insurance. BCAM joins Illinois, Northern California, Southern California, Oregon, Wyoming, and Montana. WBPI insures more than 360 bowling centers in 30 states and has dedicated itself to the bowling industry for 32 years.

8 QUBICAAMF LAUNCHES FLY’N DUCKS DUCKPIN BOWLING QubicaAMF Worldwide just launched its newest attraction, Fly’n Ducks Duckpins. This new duckpin attraction is played on standard tenpin lanes using a small ball and duckpins on strings. Fly’n Ducks also utilizes the power of the BES X Bowler Entertainment System, Conqueror X center management system, and the revolutionary EDGE String pinspotter to deliver the best duckpin experience with more variety and entertainment for consumers. Fly’n Ducks is the only duckpin product available that offers “pay-at-the-lane” gamecard swipe capability for a stand-alone operation that is aligned with the way many entertainment businesses operate. Additionally, it can be operated from a traditional front desk system. Fly’n Ducks is available in four-lane lengths and can be purchased with or without the traditional bowler approach platform. Investors can choose the right size for the playing challenge they want to offer and their available space.



August 2021

8 AMUSEMENT 360 RETURNING TO IN-PERSON FORMAT Amusement 360, a first-class education program from Creative Works, is returning to an in-person format August 24-26, 2021, and will also provide a virtual registration option for those who can’t travel. The Amusement 360 program helps existing operators and new startups go all in to improve their businesses, grow profits, and create long-term success. After hosting multiple virtual events with hundreds of attendees during the pandemic, Creative Works is returning to a live event in the Indianapolis area. “After more than 15 months of virtual-only events, our team is so excited to meet face-to-face again with all of our partners, friends, and existing and aspiring entertainment operators,” commented Danny Gruening, vice president of marketing at Creative Works. The two-and-a-half-day event will feature more than 15 speakers, operator interviews, panel discussions, educational presentations, site visits, networking, and more. “Those who are attending in-person will have an amazing experience, filled with education, networking, and fun,” added Gruening. “But we know that not everyone can travel, so we have virtual registration options available as well. No matter how people join this event, they are going to walk away with valuable and actionable ideas for their businesses.” The full agenda, speaker list, and registration can be found on the Amusement 360 Event website:





Coyote Entertainment Center in Tachi Palace in Lemoore, CA, is now reopened. The 90,000-squarefoot center opened in 2018 but was forced to close due to the pandemic. This reopening will greet patrons with a whole new layout. The most significant change is the open floor plan. The billiards room was replaced by a sports bar complete with big screens, darts, shuffleboard, and food and drink service. The bowling area was reconfigured entirely with more lanes and semi-private spaces. The expanded game room and open snack bar allow parents to stay close to kids, keeping the whole family together.

60 YEARS OF BOWLING TRADITION Community and customer efforts to save Pali Lanes in Kailua, HI, were finally exhausted, and the 24-lane center closed. Opened in May 1960, Pali Lanes started with seven lanes. It supported senior leagues and youth programs including Special Olympic bowlers. Although the building is on the state’s Historic Register, the future use of the venue is still in question.

PINDUSTRY IS OPEN FOR FUN Pindustry, a 54,500-square-foot entertainment-dining venue, has opened in Greenwood Village in Centennial, CO. Fun is offered in 12 lanes of duckpin bowling and 11 lanes of traditional bowling. A vintageinspired arcade will be designated for darts and a cornhole arena with elevated, stadiumstyle seating perfect for tournaments and league play. The ambiance is key with a large outdoor beer garden for live music and a massive rooftop patio, the Sky Deck, offering open-air views of Colorado’s Front Range and Pikes Peak. The total capacity is 2,300 guests, with a variety of offerings for large events. Pindustry’s food and beverage program will focus on an elevated menu of Italian-inspired shareable dishes alongside house-made craft cocktails and an extensive wine and beer list. Summer fun is now available!


August 2021

You wouldn’t ignore a customer complaint at your front desk, so make sure you don’t overlook those reviews on social media.

BOWLING IN ON THE UPSWING! Downtown Wilmington is close to getting more fun with four duckpin bowling lanes and an arcade reminiscent of Dave & Buster’s in a 5,700-square-foot venue called Wilma’s. You might find a little of The Flintstones, but Wilma is all Delaware. The center opens in the fall of 2021. To encourage the evolution of Nashville’s honky-tonk environment, Broadway Bowl and Bull is ready to get the ball rolling. The first floor will house miniature bowling along with arcade games and a mechanical bull. The third floor will feature three full-size bowling lanes and two additional small ball lanes. While the first floor is open for business, the second and third floors will open later this year.

ALSO HAPPENING Putters and Gutters is growing. Besides the FEC in Lampasas, TX, owners Roy and Monica Cockrell are shooting for a grand opening of a new location in early fall 2021. There will be the usual: an arcade, bowling, Putt-putt golf, and a skating rink. This new seven-acre venue in Marble Falls, TX, will house 20 lanes for bowling, a roller rink, a miniature golf course, and a concert space large enough to hold 3,000 people. There will be some less-traditional activities such as axe throwing, cornhole, and arm wrestling tournaments. Pins Mechanical Company is adding another location to its family-friendly venues. Atlanta will be added by 2023 to those in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, and North Carolina. Duckpin bowling will be offered, along with ping pong, bocce ball, and arcade games and video game consoles dating back 40 years. A bit of a wait but well worth it. Falcon Bowl in Milwaukee is going on the market. The space was first home to a Polish fraternal organization, started in 1887. The headquarters became Falcon Bowl in 1945. The basement offers six bowling lanes which are the sixth oldest in the country, first certified in 1913. The 12,502 square feet, consisting of three stories which includes three bedrooms, was listed for sale at $249,000. Want a piece of history?

SHORTS have groceries delivered to our home. People expect to be able to reserve a lane in advance now. Plus it provides a better predictor of traffic levels for the center. These systems are affordable and easy to use, so find one that integrates directly into your website to ensure a great customer experience.


By Carey Tosello Once people are allowed to engage socially again, we can expect a bowling boom. Afterall, bowling is close to home, affordable, and fun! Now is the time to carefully examine your website to make sure it will sell all that you have to offer. You should review each of your website pages from the point of view of a first time visitor, and if you don’t think it will motivate a visitor to go bowling, now is the time to change it. Everything is different post-pandemic – hours, rules, pricing, offerings, etc. Your website now has the opportunity to make a new first impression, so look for these selling points:

SELL FUN Does your website reach out and grab people? Does it scream fun? If visitors don’t get the fun vibe immediately, they will look elsewhere to spend their entertainment dollars. Your website is your best opportunity to convince people that they should visit your center.

SELL RESERVATIONS Admit it, we have all made reservations for things during the pandemic that we didn’t do before. It is the new normal to make sure you have a spot at the restaurant, gym, salon, etc. We even order our food ahead of time and some of us

After the last big pandemic in 1918 came the Roaring Twenties. We should expect that people will want to get out and socialize big time after this pandemic as well. Make it easy for them to reserve a party or event at your place. And we are not just talking kid birthdays here, but adult events and celebrations as well. Encourage adults to come to your place to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, promotion, or just guys or girls night out. Your website needs to have package options and lots of photos to sell these events.

SELL FOOD & BEVERAGE There are many bowling centers whose food and beverage sales are higher than their bowling sales. You should maximize your revenues from what is essentially a captive audience by upgrading your food and beverage offerings. Once you give customers what they want, promote those items on your website, as it is part of the overall experience when people come to your place.

SELL CLEAN & SAFE Even when the pandemic is over, you are still going to want to publicize your cleaning and sanitizing procedures. Airlines are promoting how efficient their air circulation is when flying as a way to make passengers comfortable. So talking about the amount of air your HVAC system circulates each hour will add to the comfort level of visitors to your facility. While some of your regulars won’t care, there are many potential customers that are looking at safety first. For a review of your current website, and upgrade options,

GAZMINE MASON & PBA OFFER NEW YOUTH SCHOLARSHIPS In partnership with professional bowler Gazmine“GG” Mason, the PBA has announced the launch of a new scholarship that will provide opportunities for youth bowlers of color. The Gazmine Mason Foundation Scholarship will award 20 youth bowlers’ entry into the PBA Jr. National Championship Regional Qualifier events across the country, which will take place September 3-5. Mason, who competes full-time on the PWBA Tour, was the first African American (man or woman) to win a Singles and All-American Events Gold medal for Team USA in bowling. She’s a global ambassador for the sport that has not only recognized the lack of diversity in professional bowling but has been a leader driving more visibility. Gazmine shared, “I’m so excited to partner with PBA Jr. on this new scholarship and encourage all the youth bowlers out there who have a love and passion for bowling to take a chance and apply.” To apply, please visit



August 2021


ETHAN RODRIGUEZ FUNDRAISES FOR BVL 9-year-old Ethan Rodriguez had a sweet idea to celebrate the Fourth of July: raise money by selling lemonade and cookies at Headpinz Center in Cape Coral, FL, and give 100% to the Bowlers to Veteran Link. BVL is dedicated to brightening the lives of America’s veterans and active duty men and women through recreational and therapeutic programs and services. Ethan and his parents raised over $1,100 in just four hours!

PBA Certified League Bowler Program The Professional Bowlers Association announced the launch of a new membership program for bowling centers and active league bowlers endorsed by the PBA: the PBA Certified League Bowler Program. Proprietors sign up for certification and, once accepted, a center will be recognized by the PBA. By becoming a PBA Certified Center, a center receives perks, like the ability to host a PBA event and drive additional lineage to a center through league play and tournaments. A center must be PBAcertified for its league bowlers to participate in the program. To become an individual league member, bowlers must be associated with a certified center. By bowling in a league at a participating center, individuals will have access to their game-by-game scores each week that he/she bowls in their league. These game scores will allow members to unlock awards throughout the league season. As of June 16, 2021, all Bowlero Corp centers and Bowland HeadPinz entertainment centers are CLB certified. Centers with string machines are also eligible.

A BOWLING BALL GRAVEYARD Renovating the backyard stairs furnished some excitement. David Olson in Norton Shores, MI, came upon a buried Brunswick bowling ball. Well, just not one ball. The count is now up to 158. He contacted Brunswick, which had a plant in the area in the 1950s. He said former employees contacted him and told him the workers used to take scrapped bowling balls to use as an alternative to gravel or sand for filler. The plant was shut down in 2006. What to do? What to do? Olson has donated some and plans to give some to the Muskegon Heritage Museum. The rest will be creatively used for landscaping or to make sculptures.



August 2021


Sander van Muiswinkel and Bas van Oldenborgh, proprietors of Bison Bowl, have a lot to smile about.


T Bison Bowl in the Netherlands comes through the pandemic 14


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he Bison and Olround Bowling Group owns and operates five entertainment centers in the Netherlands, and includes bowling as one of the main attractions. The centers are in the Dutch cities of Utrecht, Haarlem, Veenendaal, Nijmegen, and a recently opened center in Maastricht. The addition of the Maastricht center positioned the Bison and Olround Bowling Group as the largest chain of entertainment centers in the Netherlands to include bowling. The first bowling business was the 20-lane Nijmegen started by Ben van Oldenborgh, Bas van Oldenborgh’s father, in the early 1970s. Bas took over management of the business in 1998 from his father, who passed away in 2002.

FEATURE Bas and his cousin Sander van Muiswinkel became partners. Quickly they acquired two outlets in 2005 — Bison Bowling in Haarlem and Utrecht. They also entered into a 50% ownership of the Olround Bowling center in Nijmegen in 2008. Their fourth center, in Veenendaal, was acquired in 2014. The most recent, fifth center opened in the historic center of Maastricht in 2021. As the company grew, Bas and Sander split business duties: Bas covers all construction and investment aspects of the business, while Sander oversees all legal, financial, and administrative activities. General manager Valentijn Stronks handles the day-today operations. In addition to bowling, there are other attractions like arcades, private party rooms, a dance floor, a nightclub (in the Haarlem center), and bars and restaurants across all five centers. The Bison and Olround Bowling Group have always enjoyed a special relationship with the Bowltech Group and its CEO and founder,

Hans Krol. A few decades ago, Ben van Oldenborgh partnered with Krol in a business venture called Bobol & Pinco that marketed red wine in boxed sets containing six bottles shaped like bowling pins. Later, in 2002, after Ben van Oldenborgh passed away, Bowltech acquired the sole rights to that business, enabling Bas to focus on his bowling business. With support from Bowltech and in-house technical skill, the new center in Maastricht features QubicaAMF’s XLi Edge Pinspotters and BES X Innovative Scoring & Bowler Entertainment System. The food and beverage side of the business has continued

to grow exponentially. Bas said, “With sport bowling struggling to grow the number of registered sport bowlers, we need to focus on an A-level food and beverage service to grow our business and increase the time spent by our customers in our locations. This ranges from small snacks at the lanes and the bar to extensive all-you-can-eat buffets, focused on grilling meat, fish, and veggies at the dinner table,” added Sander. “Picking and cooking your food on tabletop hotplates with friends and family is fully in line with the experience we want to offer with our bowling and Prison Island attractions.” “Drinks and snacks are an integral part of bowling as a leisure activity,” added Sander. “Prison Island, on the other hand, is not. You need all your attention and your hands and feet to play. However, practically all bowling and Prison Island customers are restaurant customers, too, taking advantage of several packages that include food and beverage to complete their visit to our centers.” League bowling has an interesting twist at Bison and Olround Bowling: most of the league bowling is promoted and managed

“Today, roughly 60% of our revenue [comes from] food and beverage sales.” ~ Bas van Oldenborgh


August 2021


FEATURE by local bowling clubs who rent lanes from the center. Organizing bowling leagues as a club activity enables the clubs to increase membership. The Bison and Olround Bowling Group does not promote Learn-to-Bowl (LTB) programs in their centers. Instead, the bowling clubs organize and conduct their own LTB programs, which is a valuable tool for them to develop new members for the club. This, in turn, introduces new customers to the centers. “We are always the more expensive center in every geographic area but strive to outperform other centers with our service level, maintenance level, atmosphere, and food and beverage offering. We feel we are more successful because we take one extra step. Our staff is committed to turning every customer’s visit into a lasting memory — top-shelf brands for any beverage, high-quality food, and extensive buffets. We do not offer a bowling lane or a bowling game: we offer an experience. We are there, visibly present, reactively if needed, proactively where we can. At Bison and Olround, a visitor is not just the renter of a bowling lane for an hour or so, but a guest who is welcomed at entry and pampered during their visit,” explained Sanders.

PRISON BREAK EXPLAINED One new, prominent revenue-producing feature in Nijmegen and Maastricht is the Prison Island attraction. Unlike escape rooms, Prison Island offers fully automated “prison cells” with a unique challenge in each individual cell that requires both mental and physical skills. Sander explained that in Prison Island, capacity in each cell ranges from two to five participants. In contrast to an escape room, customers do not just book one cell per team. All cells are open to all players who can play the cells in teams while monitoring and comparing their team’s score on several screens displayed in the grid of cells. Typically, a visit to a cell takes two to five minutes. After that, one could play the same cell again to improve the team score or move to another available cell. All cells reset automatically after a team leaves the cell. 100 to 120 players can roam freely in the Prison Island grid simultaneously. Generally, during a one-hour visit, each team will play an average of 10 to 13 cells.



August 2021

Corporate team-building events and party bookings have always been strong in the Netherlands. “With the addition of Prison Island to the business, we believe we are offering an even more compelling mix for corporate groups to spend hours in our locations,” says Sander. Birthday parties are an important part of the business, too, with a variety of birthday packages designed for different age groups, but especially for the under18 crowd. “We offer options ranging from unwrapping presents during an alcohol-free champagne party, to face painting, to a magic show by our own staff,” recounts Sander. Over the years, Bas and Sander have developed a marketing mix that produces the best results for them. A mix of national and local advertising, collateral print, promotion, social media, and public relations. National marketing, including advertising, design of logos, collateral print, and promotion material, is ahead of office function. Social media marketing is the responsibility of the local center managers.

The company’s overall marketing strategy is the message that Bison and Olround offer leisure and hospitality for all ages, all professions, all layers of society. They primarily focus on marketing visibility in public spaces: commercials in movie theatres; the wrapping of local busses; posters at bus stops; banners on or around our locations; and sponsorships with local sports clubs with etc. Sander says that being mentioned in editorial content can be more effective than


being mentioned in editorial content can be more effective than advertising in the local newspaper. Employees are the essential piece to the overall success of the business. “We have been lucky,” notes Sander, “to [have hired] all our management level employees from within our own ranks.” Other employees are recruited mostly by word-ofmouth from the student community currently on staff and

“Our centers should be locations where people love to spend their entire night out.” ~ Sander van Muiswinkel

Bas and Sander are progressive thinkers and dynamite marketers with modern ideas who have incorporated many innovative concepts into their business. But they hold true to their core business values and beliefs in the demand for a traditional bowling experience. Even with the interruption of COVID-19, Bison and Olround Bowling Group did not sit idle while waiting for the go-ahead to reopen their centers. Instead, they focused on the construction of their newest center in Maastricht, including selfinstalling the bowling equipment. And, of course, planning for the successful reopening of their centers. They are long-term thinkers and planners and are in it for the long haul, standing with their core values and lots of energy. ❖

during university introduction weeks. “When hiring employees who deal directly with customers, we look for an open attitude, [lively] facial expressions, and an outgoing personality,” says Sander. “We have on-the-job training, with several other training programs like first aid, de-escalation skills, etc. We also provide barista training for our bar staff since the quality of our coffee is so important here in the Netherlands.” 20


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Paul Lane is former Director of Marketing and Marketing Services for AMF Bowling, Inc. He has been the director of 18 AMF World Cups, an officer in national and international trade associations, and a pro bowler during a career that spans more than 60 countries and 50 years.



Jodi and Jason Altman are amazed by and happy with their new online reservation system

By Robert Sax

Bowlers want to book online 22


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nline reservations have become common practice in many businesses. Even before the COVID-19 lockdown, you probably used an online system at least once to book a flight, hotel, car rental, movie tickets, or a table at a restaurant. During the pandemic, consumers became used to arranging many other activities online, from grocery delivery to family video visits. But when it comes to bowling lane reservations, many operators have yet to make a move online. That’s a pity


because those who have say it saves time and makes managing lanes more efficient and generates more revenue. “Other industries have done it, but bowling alleys always think ‘We’re special. We’re different. We don’t do that,’” says consultant Carey Tosello of, a long-time advocate for online booking of parties and lanes. Now that there are numerous programs available, Tosello says, “There’s no excuse now. I was raised in the business [with my dad] telling me that if you want to be successful in Bel Mateo Bowl owner Mike Leong shows off his reservation system bowling, give the [customers] what they want. And they obviously want to book things online even more so now after the pandemic.” Mike Leong, owner of Bel Mateo cope with the challenges of reopening after a 54-week Bowl in San Mateo, CA, is an early COVID shutdown. In March, the Altmans were allowed adopter, discovering online lane to reopen at just 10% occupancy and had to notify reservations more than ten years ago. customers of a long list of government safety He was the general manager then and requirements when they took a reservation. on a visit to Bowl Expo when he Demand was high, and the phone was ringing off encountered Easybowl, a Denmarkthe hook but taking reservations was eating up too based event management software much of their time. “We just had so many protocols vendor. The company offered him a that we had to follow; we were spending all day on free six-month trial for his employer’s the phone fielding reservations,” says Jodi. “We went three centers and a modest $300 for an online because we couldn’t handle the reservations additional six months. Leong calculated with human [labor]. It was overwhelming. “ that the $300 investment generated $3,000 in Carey Tosello of additional lane revenue. “When I purchased the center in 2013, I went full bore with online lane reservations,” says Leong. “We did what I felt was a really good number in 2013, and then ’14, [and] we did even more in ’15. It just exploded.” In 2019 he took 5,550 lane reservations online that generated more than $500,000 in revenues, including a $10-15 fee per reservation. (Leong calls it a “skip the line” fee because those customers can go straight to their lane when they arrive.) Jason and Jodi Altman of Gage Bowl in Los Angeles recently started offering online reservations to help them IBI

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Brunswick Sync Online Reservation

online because we couldn’t handle the reservations with human [labor]. It was overwhelming. “ Jodi discovered the AlleyTrak service, which their friend Tosello also recommended. “There was no downside to trying it because there’s no contract you had to sign. It didn’t cost us anything to try,” says Jodi. Integrating the new online reservation system was seamless. It took only a few minutes for customers to book online, plus the Altmans’ time spent on calls went from

The Altmans found additional benefits from the standpoint of operations. “It makes you more efficient at your lane management because you can stack people and really maximize [inventory]. It’s an inventorybased business,” says Jason. 15 minutes per call to less than a minute. “It’s been the best thing we’ve ever done,” says Jason. “It’s a great way to know who’s coming in the door or who’s not coming in,” says Tosello. “If I look at Friday night [on] Thursday 26


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and see [just] 20% of my lanes booked, I’m going to do something to drive traffic. I’ll put out a social media special. In the past, you [wouldn’t know] until Friday night.” “The online reservation is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity today,” says FEC consultant Jerry Merola of Amusement Entertainment Management. “The consumer does this in every other aspect of their life. You want to order coffee from Starbucks; you’re using the app. Online reservations are the bowling app of the 21st century. It’s critical because it also helps the business prioritize and understand its volumes before they happen.” One of the reasons Leong turned to online reservations was because when he asked people why they Jerry Merola of Amusement didn’t bowl, the answer was almost always ‘you Entertainment Management never have any lanes available.’ “Everybody wants to go bowling on Friday night at eight o’clock or Saturday night, eight o’clock,” says Leong. “So what we started advertising was: avoid the wait, reserve your lanes online and walk right in.” Proprietors using online reservations report revenue increases for several reasons. Perhaps the biggest one is that customers prepay for their bowling time and shoe rental, so the operator gets paid in advance. In addition, customers generally don’t think about the prepaid fees when they arrive; in their mind, they have already spent that money. That can lead to increased spending, especially


they’ve already spent that money. So when they’re at the bowling center, I think there’s more freedom to spend more on [other things].” Rick Heim is a bowling center consultant as well as an owner of two FECs in Texas under the Spare Time brand. He, too, has noticed the same psychological effect of prepaying lanes at the time of reservation. “[The customer] may have booked it four hours ago, but it’s forgotten. And so when people come in, they’ve got full pockets of money, if you will,” says Heim. “[They] haven’t spent anything really at the center on that day. So it does elevate food and beverage. There’s no doubt about it.” According to Heim, the modest subscription cost for a reservation system pays for itself in a matter of months in increased lane rentals, adding, “More affluent guests are more demanding, and they aren’t willing to wait two hours for a lane. They’re willing to pay for that convenience.” It’s up to the proprietor to decide how much to charge; convenience fees range from a few dollars to cover costs to as high as $15 because that’s what the market Rick Heim will bear.

Getting Started

There are at least half a dozen vendors offering online reservations software. Some are standalone systems; others are bundled with scoring systems from major vendors of capital equipment. Many can be integrated into the center’s existing website, which provides a higher comfort level for existing customers who may be reluctant to deal with a third party. Subscription fees are paid monthly or annually. For more efficient accounting, Merola advises choosing a system that will integrate with your existing POS system. Otherwise, he says, “You’re going to have to transfer all that data into your POS every day.” Tosello recommends that every operator consider if POS integration is worth it to them. “[The programs] that do are going to cost you a lot 28


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more than the stand-alones. So your trade-off is, ‘Do I manually put information into my accounting software because I saved a bunch of money on the monthly fees, or do I want it all integrated?’ And every provider has to make his own call on that.” It can also be a significant competitive advantage to offer online reservations, notes Merola. “Consumers like the convenience, and this is a very big part of what the consumer identifies as being convenient. So if you want to stand out in the marketplace, you provide technology that your competitors don’t.” This innovation isn’t just for independents; national operators like Bowlero and Lucky Strike have also

gone with online lane reservations. If you aren’t yet offering them, check it out and talk to operators who have. Rick Heim recommends it to all of his consulting clients, saying, “I don’t know how you could operate successfully without it.” ❖

RESERVATION SYSTEM PROVIDERS 4Bowl | AlleyTrak | BMI Leisure | Brunswick | Centeredge Software | Clubspeed | Easybowl | Meriq | Party Wirks | QubicaAMF

Robert Sax is a writer and PR consultant in Los Angeles. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, the home of five-pin bowling.


6 LEADERSHIP LESSONS OF PARENTHOOD Parenting might just be the best training for leaders yet

By Candi Kelley


ecently, I was struck by the leadership lessons that are reinforced in me daily through parenting. Parenting and Leadership are different. Mainly, your employees have a choice if they want to be led by you whereas children are yours, for life. However, the similarities are more abundant to me than the differences. Here are 6 Leadership lessons that parenting reinforces for me daily.

NO, THEY PROBABLY WILL NOT DO IT JUST LIKE ME, BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THEIR WAY IS WRONG. My two children are different from each other and, at times, quite different from me. They find their own solutions to problems. Often, those solutions would not have even occurred to me. The magical thing, though, is their solutions often work just as well for them. Is it how I would do it? No. Does it get the job done? Yes. Did we learn something in the process? Always. My way is not the only way, nor is it the best way for everyone, and sometimes, I need to be reminded of that. 30


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DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS DO NOT WORK THE SAME ON ALL PEOPLE. Both of my children like to push their boundaries at times which results in disciplinary actions. My oldest is a rule follower, and my youngest is a rule pusher. I would not dream of disciplining my youngest the same as I discipline my oldest. It just would not work for her. She would not get it. Team members are often the same way. We all have different personality types and communication styles. This carries over into how we react to disciplinary measures.

MOTIVATION DOES NOT WORK THE SAME EITHER. On that note, my children are not motivated by the same things either. One is intrinsically motivated. She wants to be better than she was yesterday and often holds extremely high expectations for herself. Her most fierce competition is not with others. It is with herself. The other is motivated by external sources. Races, competitions, being able to do something like her big sister are all great motivators for her.


EACH PERSON SERVES A VITAL ROLE, WHETHER THEY REALIZE IT OR NOT. Looking at my family team, we all serve particularly important roles. Leia brings excitement and joy into the daily mundane. She loves big and gets mad big and gives us all permission to feel our emotions. Drew pushes us each to be better than yesterday and reminds us not to stop being kind to others. Their dad reminds all of us to take some time to play, and I am at times the calm in the storm. As we grow together, our roles become more important, and we rely on each other to perform those roles. A good team should be the same. They each bring something important to the table, and the more they grow together, the more in sync their unique traits become with the team.

OTHERS ARE NOT MIND READERS. ASK CLEARLY FOR WHAT YOU WANT OR NEED. We have all done this in our family lives, right? We expect the other person to just know what to do. Without explaining, I expect my children to just know what I need them to do at that exact moment. Or we expect our partner to be able to read the silence we are putting out there to know that we need their help with something. Here is a little secret – most people are not mind readers. If you want something, you need to clearly ask for it. If you want it done a certain way, you need to clearly explain it. Doing this will save you a lot of aggravation and time in the future, trust me.



August 2021

IT IS OKAY TO NEED HELP. The most important leadership lesson parenting has taught me is that it is okay to need help. Why do we all insist that we must do everything? Do any of us like the types of people who believe that they are the only ones who can take on all the things? I don’t like those types of people, so why would I want to be one? Asking for help or delegating is the secret to running a successful home and business. What has parenting brought to your leadership skill set? Email David Garber at and drop us a note about how parenting influences your leadership. ❖

Candi Kelley is COO at Trainertainment and has been there for two years. She is also a mother of two girls, ages nine and four. Her 23 years of hospitality experience, with a focus on amusement and attractions for the last 12 years, has made her the perfect mom.


PREPARING KIDS FOR THE FUTURE Jeff and Sonia Wirtz’s Great Lakes Junior Gold Tour celebrates 10 years

By Mark Miller


t’s a good thing Sonia Wirtz kept her vow that daughters Olivia and Joni would not spend Saturday mornings watching cartoons, or they might not have bowled in college or been part of a prestigious youth tour their parents launched more than a decade ago. When Wirtz and husband Jeff realized there wasn’t enough top-level competition available as their children became better on the lanes, they launched what is now called the Great Lakes Junior Gold Tour. From the first events that offered no scholarship money, Jeff Wirtz estimates the tour has distributed more than $250,000 in scholarships and annually sends more than 200 youth to the United States Bowling Congress Junior Gold Championships. “We did a lot of trial by error,” said Jeff, a truck driver who is more the face of the enterprise while Sonia, a former banking employee, works behind the scenes. “You find out when you run a tournament, and you don’t offer any scholarships whatsoever, your attendance tends to drop down because there’s no incentive to come back.” Wirtz said more than 600 individuals as young as age 4 competed in the 2019-2020 season, which featured as many as 175 entrants. Naturally, those numbers were lower in 2020-2021 due to the pandemic, but the Wirtzes feel fortunate they were able to conduct all but two scheduled events to celebrate their 10th season.



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Great Lakes Junior Gold co-founder Jeff Wirtz

YOUTH BOWLING “We made it work,” Jeff said. “We had to be creative in moving a couple of tournaments around because in a couple of instances we may have had a tournament coming up in the next week (in Michigan) and then were shut down, so we had to call down to Indiana, and they said ‘yes.’” Besides having to move events to comply with Covid-19 restrictions, many featured split shifts, and often every other pair of lanes had to be utilized. Masks were required everywhere except when bowlers were on the approach, and hand sanitizer was plentiful through each center. After canceling the initial tournament on the 2020-2021 schedule in June in Sandusky, OH, the first pandemic-era events were held last July in Fort Wayne, IN (one shift with 70 participants), and Gaylord, MI (split shift with 68 kids). A Youth-Collegiate Showcase was held on the

Sonia and Jeff Wirtz

first Saturday in August in Fort Wayne with 120 bowling in front of more than two dozen college coaches. Players stayed on their lanes while coaches rotated with a regular tournament the next day, followed by time to talk to coaches. Another Showcase occurred in June of this year, with about 100 attendees and 25 coaches. By the start of 2020, the GLJGT secured its first sponsors in Brunswick, Ultimate Products, Apparel EFX, and HBA. And before the pandemic, the tour had grown so much that Wirtz has acted as a travel agent in arranging flights and hotels for his qualifiers and anyone 38


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else wants to take advantage of what he’s found. It is separate from USBC and involves properties not connected to USBC. “One of the things I’ve learned is we, the parents are what is standing in the way of our kids,” Jeff said. “We are coddling them to a degree. We say get them started now. They are better than you think they are. Yes, they will get pounded at first; we know that. But they will learn how to get better.” Olivia and Joni started their bowling careers at the same center – M66 Bowl in Pennfield Charter just north of Battle Creek, Michigan – where Sonia bowled as a youth. She and San Francisco native Jeff met at Battle Creek Central High school, where at the time, there were lanes on which he first learned how to bowl. In the ensuing years, the girls became good competitors, especially after taking part in the Kids Bowl Free program at M66. As Olivia improved, her parents realized she needed a good coach, so they engaged Scott Brunners in Kalamazoo, who helped her improve enough to join the Junior Gold program. The trouble was that most qualifying events were conducted in the eastern part of the state, particularly around Detroit. After traveling there about twice a month, Jeff decided to create a similar program in the west. And thus was born the West Michigan Junior Gold Tour in 2010, with events primarily in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Like anything new, Wirtz admits it didn’t start well, with the first event canceled due to a lack of entries. The second at Kelly’s Bowl in St. Joseph only had 11 participants. But as word spread about the new tour, things improved to where 9-10 events were held in 2010 in one age group. The tour later expanded into northern Indiana, northwest Ohio, and northeast Illinois, prompting a name change to the Great Lakes Junior Gold Tour in 2017. Both Wirtz girls competed for one season at Battle Creek Pennfield High School after Olivia started at Battle Creek Central. Olivia won the Division 3 state title and Michigan Junior Masters as a 16-year-old sophomore and placed 11th in

YOUTH BOWLING that year’s Junior Gold. She did not bowl on the high school team her junior and senior years to concentrate on youth competition. It was then she began to realize she could bowl in college and started checking out schools. But before starting high school, she worked with professional coaches like Lou Marquez, Bob Learn Jr., and Jordan Vanover at Turbo Grips in Detroit. “When you are getting coaching from the best of the best in the world, it was conflicting information,” Jeff said. “The high school coach would say he wanted them to do things his way while on the high school team.” Olivia earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Statistics from Vanderbilt University in 2016 and competed for one year while a graduate student in accounting at Valparaiso University. She now is a loan underwriter for a bank near Atlanta. The GLJGT takes off in December, January, and February to avoid conflicting with the high school season. It also allows Jeff and Sonia to attend high school and college tournaments, including youngest daughter Joni. She just graduated from the Savannah (Georgia) College of Arts and Design bowling team. Until she secures a regular job, she will be helping her parents redevelop their website. The Wirtzes have learned that there’s a misconception of what it takes to bowl collegiately, especially with the growing number of schools with teams. So they created an expanded website to include a recruiting

section where bowlers can post their bowling resumes and videos for coaches to see. He also connects with college coaches, where he trades information on collegiate events to recruiting information. The goal is to promote youth, scholarships, and collegiate bowling to connect college coaches to youth bowlers. They hope to create more opportunities to expand into Wisconsin and other states soon. “I’d like to see more for the kids. I don’t want to see any kid out $100,000 or $200,000,” Jeff said.” I cannot imagine a kid going to school for four years and having debt like that. It just blows my mind. But if you do your homework, there’s a lot out there. Scholarships are a big deal.” 40


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When scheduling their events, the Wirtzes cooperate with directors of other youth tours in other states to not conflict with their schedules. “Like I tell people, I hope we’re all working on the same side in the same direction trying to get the kids to the same place, which is to college,” he said. “Sometimes, some people don’t think that. Some think it’s all about the competition. Before I set up the schedule, I take a year calendar and call all the other people to find out what they have scheduled for next year.” For 2021-22, a full schedule of events is slated, including expanding junior-adult doubles tournaments and Bowl with Your Friends options. Wirtz also will add two-day events with non-scholarship junior “choose your partner” doubles on Saturdays and regular Junior Gold scholarship singles on Sundays. He’s also considering the junior team and collegiate doubles formats. “I think next year will be our best year yet,” Wirtz said. ❖

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



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