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VOL 25.12

8 SHORTS • Brunswick acquires Ultimate Bowling. • Ocean 5 and Table 47 in Gig Harbor, WA, are green and fun. • 2018 will bring bowling to Telluride. • Bowling and the UK are striking it big. • New champions at QubicaAMF World Cup.

32 FEATURE The Power Behind a Unique Brand Scene75 is a community destination. By Sean Krainert


38 SPOTLIGHT Town Hall Lanes strikes a balance between innovation and exploration while appreciating history.

16 FEATURE Strike Out Hunger

By Mark Miller

Trading cans of food for free bowling saved a business and a community.




ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION Designworks (818) 735-9424

FOUNDER Allen Crown (1933-2002)

12655 Ventura Boulevard Studio City, CA 91604 (818) 789-2695(BOWL) Fax (818) 789-2812

By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

HOTLINE: 818-789-2695 32

46 REMEMBER WHEN Happy Holidays from the 1960s By Patty Heath

22 COVER STORY Mark Baker: A Proprietor’s Game Changer

41 Classifieds

Dedication, passion and his System keep bowlers coming back. By Jim Goodwin

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 $50 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, 12655 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604 USA. If possible, please furnish address mailing label. Printed in U.S.A. Copyright 2017, B2B Media, Inc. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the publisher’s permission.



December 2017 Skype: scottfrager

Jim Goodwin Patty Heath Sean Krainert Mark Miller Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

Corner of the Neighborhood




By Patty Heath





THE BLVD IS COMING TO BAKERSFIELD, CA Whatever the age, whatever the activity, the BLVD will have it. David C. Bynum, president of The BLVD, announced a new entertainment and dining concept for Bakersfield, CA. The 45,000-square-foot venue will offer a full-service restaurant with farm to table cuisine; 22 state-of-the-art bowling lanes, plus a VIP, 8-lane boutique section; and an outdoor beer garden, with two bocce ball courts, covered patio, and three full-service bars. Not enough? There will also be 60 interactive games, billiard tables, a two-story locally themed laser tag arena, plus an indoor ropes course and live entertainment. The BLVD will provide an immersive environment for sports enthusiasts, with huge 15-foot screens over the lanes and over 40 HDTVs throughout the venue. The target opening is early 2018.



What do you do after being a chief operating officer at Starbucks? Troy Alstead immerses himself in community projects—healthy projects both in scope and environment. His latest ventures are Ocean 5 and Table 47 in Gig Harbor, WA. Ocean 5 is an impressive 57,000-square-foot entertainment/gaming venture; Table 47 is a 300-seat, upscale-food restaurant adjacent. Quoted in Tacoma’s The News Tribune, “Ocean 5 has been a vision of mine for 10 years,” Alstead shared. “Bringing this space to the community where we live and are raising our children is a huge part of that dream. I’m excited to be giving the South Sound a space where friends and groups have enough elbow room to relax and just have fun, whether they stay for an hour, an afternoon or a night out.” The building will be heated and cooled by geothermal energy. The geothermal network includes three miles of wells under the parking lot. What can patrons expect to find when they walk through the doors: 12 duckpin bowling lanes; 10 ten pin bowling lanes, plus suites for private parties; a two-story laser arena; a gaming arcade and prize store; a lounge for 100 with a circular fireplace, couches and tables; and a private event and party space accommodating between five and 400.

The Rancho District of Burbank, CA, nestles next to the Disney studio lot and is home to horse-friendly properties and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Since 1955, it has also been home to Pickwick Gardens, an 8.5acre, multi-use entertainment hub, comprised of an ice skating rink, banquet rooms, a bar and lounge, gardens for weddings, and Pickwick Bowling Center. Across the street is a cozy cantina, Viva, which puts on up to 800 live shows a year. If property owners have their way, all of this could be replaced with several hundred townhouses and apartments, a parking structure, and bocce ball court. However, the community residents have balked at the encroachment on their low-key neighborhood. The redevelopment plan has been met with an online petition against demolishing the structures and gathered over 10,000 signatures in less than 72 hours. Time will only tell if those signatures will turn into an increase in business to stave off any forward movement by owners.

TELLURIDE GIVES A THUMBS-UP TO BOWLING Bowling is coming to Telluride, CO. Finally! Thanks to Steve Hilbert, owner of Hilbert Homes and partner and managing director at Telluride Real Estate Corporation (TREC), a six-lane boutique center, tentatively named Revelation Bowl, will be opening in late-spring 2018. Besides bowling, there will be a bar, restaurant and lounge spaces. The center would be a perfect place for a year-round, weatherproof activity feels Hilbert.

ALSO HAPPENING New is great but Reopen is even better. Owned by Crazy Pins, Georgetown Bowl, Fort Wayne, IN, closed since May 2017, has reopened as Georgetown Entertainment. The new sports-themed FEC will not only have bowling but also bumper cars, a 4D interactive theater, an augmented climbing wall, an arcade, and a full-service bar and restaurant. Nottke’s Bowl, Battle Creek, MI, is now called Bowlero Lanes and has added the state-of-the-art fun center Zap Zone. Other additions are a pro shop, laser tag maze, two escape rooms, and a banquet hall with private lanes. Al-Mar Lanes in Bowling Green, OH, has been spiffed up with $100,000 in renovations. A ribbon cutting, grand opening showed off a resurfaced parking lot, 8


December 2017

synthetic lanes and approaches, a refurbished bowlers area, and new house bowling balls. Chris and Alex Olson, brothers with a vision, reopened Plaza Lanes in Fremont, NE, as Area 51. Included are a nerf gun arena, a go cart track and arcade. The Olson brothers are the third generation to own a center. Their parents and grandparents also owned and ran centers. It’s in the blood. With the help of the city of Reidsville, NC, the newly named Reidsville Bowling Center is reopened for business. Mayor Jay Donecker shared, “Having the bowling center here is a plus for our residents, especially for our youth and seniors. It keeps dollars here and attracts visitors, giving us another amenity for everyone to enjoy.”



CENTERS STEP UP Station Casinos LLC, in Las Vegas, announced a $1 million commitment of support for those impacted by the Las Vegas tragedy which rippled through the nation. Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and surrounding areas had their share of disasters recently. As always, bowling centers in the affected areas came forward to share their spaces for refuge and promote relief efforts. Cinergy Entertainment, with a high profile in Texas, selected one day to donate a percentage of all sales from all its locations to the relief effort in Houston for Hurricane Harvey. The day sales soared past expectations and the 5% of sales proceeds will be donated to the United Way of Greater Houston Hurricane Relief Fund. The Alley in Charleston, SC, to help the U.S. Virgin Islands, hosted a clothes and supply drive with a local non-profit, LowcountryLOVEforVI. The donated items and cash will be sent to help those in the Caribbean who were affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Lubbock, TX, centers stepped up for Puerto Rico. Whitewood Lanes, South Plains Lanes, Plainview Bowling Center, and Eastridge Lanes in Amarillo set up donation centers for needed items. Far away to the north, BOWL 4 RELIEF, an event to help rebuild Texas and Florida, was held at East Providence Lanes in East Providence, RI.

HAPPENING AROUND THE COUNTRY Maple Family Centers, New York area: Long Island Cares, Inc. – The Harry Chapin Food Bank Holiday Bowl, Altoona, PA: Mountain Lion BackPack Bowling Fundraiser SpareZ, Davie, FL: Bowling with Dad event, sponsored by Agape Hearts Campani’s Legacy Lanes, Bridgeton, NJ: Strike Out Homelessness Fountain Bowl, Fountain Valley, CA: 20th annual Kelly Osborne Bowling Memorial Fundraiser

BRUNSWICK ACQUIRES ULTIMATE BOWLING PRODUCTS Echo Park is a small town, east of Los Angeles, snuggled up against Dodger Stadium. In the 1920s, Jensen’s Recreation Center had a cozy bowling alley in its basement. To lure customers, atop the building was an animated incandescent sign containing 1,300 red, green, and white light bulbs, depicting a bowler throwing a strike. It is believed to be the only sign of this type and size remaining in the U.S. The lights went out decades ago, but with fundraising encouraged by the community, spearheaded by the Echo Park Historical Society, and supported by the building’s owner, Vista Investment Group, the lights are now back on.

PEOPLEWATCHING QubicaAMF Worldwide has announced that Jack Siefert will be joining its team as FEC amusement sales executive. With 30 years of experience in the amusement industry, beginning as president of his own Jack Siefert consulting firm, doing business with Walt Disney World, ESPN and Sega Game Works, Siefert’s primary role will be to grow the FEC segment. He will support the amusement division by selling the company’s full bowling product mix into this growing market and manage the relationships with amusement distributors in the U.S.

Pinz Entertainment Center, Studio City, CA:

The third annual Bowl For Ronnie, benefitting the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. Vestavia Bowl, Vestavia Hills, AL and The National Bowling Stadium, Reno: Bowling for Rhinos What is your center doing? Email Patty Heath at



December 2017

Ebonite International has named Shannon Hester as its new creative director at its worlwide headquarters in Hopkinsville, KY. Hester has an extensive background in graphic design, video, and photography. Prior to her move to Ebonite, Hester worked for Gaylord Hotels, Nashville, TN, covering design and advertising projects. She will work directly with Dave Wodka, Ebonite’s global marketing manager.


ß BITS & PIECES ß ß ß 53rd QubicaAMF World Cup Winners Krizziah Lyn Tabora, 26-yearold from the Philippines, and Jakob Butturff, 23-year-old from the USA, both climbed from third to first place to win the women’s and men’s title, respectively, in the 53rd QubicaAMF Bowling World cup, at Bol 300 in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Newly crowned chamions: (l-r) Jakob Butturff and Krizziah Lyn Tabora.


Intercard Works with Round 1 Intercard has completed an arcade installation of its debit card technology for Round 1 Bowling and Amusement’s newest location at Crystal Run Galleria Mall in Middletown, NY. It is the first of Round 1’s more than 15 U.S. locations to use Intercard technology. Similar systems will be installed at upcoming Round 1 locations in Auburn Hills, MI; Peoria, IL; and Greensboro, NC. ---------------------------------------------------------------------

New Brand Identity for BMI Merchandise BMI Merchandise has unveiled its new brand identity. The company has grown and evolved over the last 30 years. Its new tagline, Moving Fun Forward, shines light on the business of FUN, while providing seamless, end-to-end solutions in the ever-changing market. The new AMRS™ redemption technology logo incorporates tech advancements, never forgetting the FUN foundation. ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Dieters’ Alert

IBMHF Raffle Winners IBMHF holds a fundraising raffle each year that ends at Bowl Expo. This year more than $20,000 was raised. A guaranteed $5,000 cash prize was awarded with all the remaining proceeds going to support IBMHF. The 2017 winner was Judy Schemm, wife of Tom Schemm of Schemm Bowling Inc. Tom also sells the raffle tickets and bought some and put his wife’s name on them. As a goodwill gesture, the Schemms donated half of the price back to the IBMHF. ----------------------------------------------------------------

UK Bowling Sites are Flourishing The bowling biz is alive and well in the UK. According to stock reports, Ten Entertainment Group hit a new 52week high in trading. Hollywood Bowl, one of the largest bowling chains in the UK, saw sales and earnings climb following its refurbishment and rebranding of its Bowlplex sites to Hollywood Bowl. The ten pin firm Lane7 plans to open four new sites three years after its first venture in Newcastle. Centers in Aberdeen and Middlesbrough will be open in time for Christmas parties, while locations in Birmingham and Durham are planned for 2018 with more on the way. ----------------------------------------------------------------

QubicaAMF brings bowling to Villages Nature® Paris QubicaAMF Worldwide was chosen for the recent bowling installation at Villages Nature Paris. A collaboration between Euro Disney SCA and the Pierre et Vacances Center Parcs Group, the center is located just outside Disneyland Paris in BaillyRomainvilliers and Villeneuve-Le-Comte. The center was opened to the public on September 1, 2017 and features 12 lanes of bowling with TMS string pinspotters and BES X entertainment system.

Bowling is good exercise. Of course, that might be cancelled out by the Behemoth Burger being introduced at the new Bowlero in Sayville, NY. The center boasts 60 lanes, a high-tech arcade and a burger at $54.99, quite a deal unless you don’t want to share. The Behemoth’s five-pound beef patty comes dressed with bacon, 12 American cheese slices, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and special sauce. Typically, it can be shared by eight to 10 hungry bowlers. Prefer a hot dog? No worries. The Mega Mad Dog is a two-foot-long hot dog covered with mustard, Coney Island sauce, and diced onions.



December 2017


By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson


ike the roller coaster at the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk, the economy has its ups and downs. And in 2008, during the Great Recession, Boardwalk Bowl director Willie King and others in the Santa Cruz, CA, community were facing some hard times. “The economy was in trouble,” King recalls. “The realestate market was collapsing, and it was taking the stock market with it. There was a devastating effect on our bowling business, too, as we saw lines-per-bed drop precipitously.” At the holiday kick-off luncheon for a local food bank, King listened to several speakers explaining the needs of the community and what other organizations had done. “It was enlightening, encouraging, and inspiring to know how many good people were helping feed the poor in our community. I remember thinking if our bowling business was going to fail, maybe we could at least help people along the way.” Instead of hanging on, King reached out. He helped others. “The concept was simple: we would trade bowling for food. A can of corn became a free-game coupon. Bring in a can of food and you could have one free game per person per day. It was good for open play only, but there were no other restrictions. Even league bowlers could participate – bring in up to three cans of food on their league night, and we’d give them three free games to use in open play. Initially I called it Bowl Out Hunger, but my bookkeeper, Alisha Walton, laughed at me and said, ‘No, it has to be Strike Out Hunger.’ Well, she was right on that one, as usual. Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County supplied me with bins to collect food. It was that easy.”



December 2017

With only internal promotion like banners, signs, and pleas to league bowlers, Boardwalk Bowl collected about 1,000 cans to feed the needy. “At first we were only going to run the program from November 1 through Thanksgiving,” King shares. “None of us was ready for what happened next. People started bringing in cans and their gratitude was amazing. ‘Thank you so much for doing this,’ they would tell my front-desk staff. When my personnel get thanked and appreciated, they work even harder! We went from empty lanes to waiting lists almost overnight. Our food bank program was working so well and with such a positive reaction, we decided to extend the program through the end of the year.“ Unlike other fundraisers which usually take place in just one day, Strike Out Hunger is an

Willie King and his donations.


ongoing event from November 1 until New Year’s Day. King states,” “That first year we strengthened valuable connections with our community, and we helped resuscitate our bowling business.” “Ever since that first year, we’ve continually added to the program. We have added to our in-house advertising with professionally made banners and signs. We have a logo for the program. And we advertise heavily on our local cable TV channels. It has become a large part of our identity. We even added May to the program, traditionally a horrible month for bowling.” Last year Boardwalk Bowl brought in 10,810 cans, or over five tons of food. “That’s a lot of meals for a lot of families. Every year we track how much food we bring in, and we have found a perfect correlation between how many cans we bring in and how much money we make. Our goal is to help more local families in need by collecting even more cans and donations than last year,” states King. The food is donated to Second Harvest, the first food bank in California and the second oldest in the nation. Founded in 1972, Second Harvest serves over 55,000 Santa Cruz County residents each month. More than half of those are children. In 2015-16, Second Harvest distributed 8,177,898 pounds of food through 200+ partner agencies and program sites across Santa Cruz County, including recovery centers, group homes, pantries, after-school programs, shelters, and more. Fresh fruits and vegetables represented 61% of the food distributed, over five million pounds of produce. Second Harvest presents nutrition programming over 1,000 times throughout the year, at 63 sites across the county. Strike Out Hunger worked so well the first year that King took it to NorCal Bowling Centers in 2009. “I was president of the organization at the time. I told them about the program, how easy it was to start, and the benefits for all. Many tried it and had the exact same results: good PR and good profit, all while helping their communities. Three prominent Northern California centers participating in this program are Cloverleaf 18


December 2017

Family Bowl in Fremont, Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park, and Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl. In 2010, it became the official charity of NorCal Bowling Centers, and in 2011 it won the BPAA award for Charity of the Year.” Strike Out Hunger is a win-win for everyone involved, noted King. “Our guest staff love it because they are frequently thanked; it helps the business because it draws people in to bowl — we get a lot of phone calls asking whether or not Strike Out Hunger is happening — and we’re helping feed people during the holiday season.” Cash donations are also welcome. Those who donate $100 cash to Second Harvest receive 25 free bowling passes for use at the Boardwalk Bowl on future visits. If you want to help feed local families, you can host Strike Out Hunger at your center. King explains how: “It’s easy for a bowling center to get started with Strike Out Hunger. First, decide on a time frame. Most food banks do their food drives in November and December. Then contact your local food bank. There’s a website for information: They will put you in touch with your local food bank, and they will provide you with food barrels for collection. Add some signage, publicize on your Facebook page and website, and you’re good to go. The best advice I can give is to make it as restrictionfree as you can. Accept cans on Friday and Saturday nights – you’re only getting one per person anyway. When you do this, you’re sending a powerful message to your customers – you mean business in helping your community! This isn’t a cheap promotional stunt to get business in your off-hours – this is how you fit into your community. “We are very active with our community and other charities. We do four other fundraisers each year as major sponsors: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County and Bowl for Kids Sake, WomenCare of Santa Cruz County (a cancer-counseling organization for women), Haven of Hope (for teenage girls), and Santa Cruz Vets4Vets. In addition, we donate bowling parties as raffle prizes for local non-profits and school fundraisers (a $280 value). This year we’ll donate more than 50 of these. We’re also giving away a larger prize - a pizza bowling party for 60 people to help our local Rotary Club with their fundraising efforts in our community.” Begun during a time of economic stress, Strike Out Hunger is now in its tenth year and continues to grow, helping those in need. King’s business and the community of Santa Cruz weathered the economic storm and both are healthier than ever. “My goal with Strike Out Hunger would be to enlist every bowling center in the country,” states King. “This would be awesome if bowling and feeding the hungry were united as an identity. Bowling centers, at their very basic level, are about the communities they reside in.” For more information, visit ❖ Pamela Kleibrink Thompson lives in Idaho. In addition to writing, she is a career coach and scenario role player for peace officer training. Pamela worked as a production manager on the Emmy Award-winning animated series The Simpsons, where she bowled regularly with members of the crew. She speaks on career issues at conferences all over the world. You can reach Pamela at

COVER STORY By Jim Goodwin amp Bakes sounds like an event cooked up by chef Gordon Ramsey and his favorite pastry chef Christina Tosi. But in fact, it is the name of the most successful bowling instructional camp since the days when the Dick Ritger camps and the popular pro bowling camps dominated the tenpin landscape. Bakes is the affectionate nickname given to Californian Mark Baker during his days on the PBA tour from 1982-90. The Orange County boy wonder on the bowling lanes became a man for his competitors to watch when he took his powerful game on the tour at age 21. And he found success, winning four national titles and six regional titles and finishing in the top 20 money winners seven consecutive seasons. He rolled 20 PBA 300 games and led the tour in average in 1985. Baker became well known to avid bowling fans by appearing on 29 TV finals, and he made a good living in those years, earning more than $600,000, an average of more than $2000 a week for 289 events. Back problems and surgery ended his pro touring career but not his love of the game. In October, Baker and his all-star staff of coaches completed their 27th Camp Bakes at Sunset Station Hotel, Casino and Strike Zone Bowling Center in Las Vegas. It went well, but there were many sad faces and much talk about the horrible mass shooting that happened across town at the Mandalay Bay on the day everyone arrived at Sunset. “It was a bittersweet week,” said one of the coaches. It seemed that everyone involved knew somebody who was affected; yet they came together to enjoy the game, learn, and appreciate the fellowship and friendships that every camp produces; even more so because of what had happened. Since 2004, Baker and friends have traveled to Las Vegas twice each year, in May and October, to share their knowledge and passion for the game. His Camp Bakes coaching staff includes Barry Asher, Robin Romeo, Joe Hutchinson, Dave Husted, Doug Kent and John Gaines. All are hand selected by Baker not just for their bowling credentials and coaching




Dedication, passion and his System keep bowlers coming back. 22


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COVER STORY ability, but for their personalities and people skills. Baker’s friend Jeff Crews handles all of the video and IT work. “I stay pretty wound up most of the time, and Jeff is also my calming agent,” said Baker. “After we do all of the filming on the first day of camp, I do all of the assessments,” says Baker. “This group has been together for many years, and they know a lot of what I am going to see. They buy into my system and they are a great team to work with. It is not always who is the best coach - it is who is the best person. Robin and Dave are two of the best people I have ever met. People like them, and they will listen. Their egos are in check; I’m not even sure if they have an ego. They just treat everyone with respect. All of our coaches are there for the right reasons. They just want the bowlers to get better.” Joe Hutchinson, who is well known as a light hearted guy with a great sense of humor, keeps the staff and students loose during sessions. “He has found his calling,” said Hutchinson. “He is the best coach and teacher of the game in the world right now because he keeps it very basic. He takes the most simplistic approach to getting better, and he does not clutter it up with a bunch of innuendoes. But the bottom line is results. At every camp, we see drastic, unbelievable improvements in some bowlers just in the four days we are together. Mark makes it a science; and it is a science, like in all sports, some more than others.” Baker met Robin Romeo when they bowled a doubles event together when they were both on tour, but he discovered her coaching ability after she asked him to give her a lesson. “I was looking for a tune-up and my friend Tennelle Milligan (now PWBA director of operations) recommended Mark,” said Romeo. “We got together and immediately he spotted that the problem I thought was timing was simply my body tilt in my approach. We fixed it, and it did the trick.” When Romeo was asked to join the staff, she attended a camp mostly just to observe. “I noticed that Mark was prompt, very organized, and very professional in running the camp,” said Romeo. “He catches problems so quickly. Most of the time, he does not even need a video because he has seen it thousands of times. I was hooked from the first day.” PBA Hall of Famer Barry Asher brings the most experience to the staff and works with Baker more than all of the coaches. Asher owns the pro shop in Baker’s home center, Fountain Bowl, and they give lessons together 30-40 Saturdays every year. The Asher-Baker clinics at Fountain are informal, inexpensive, and very popular. Fountain Bowl owner Dave Osborne has watched Mark Baker’s coaching business from the beginning, and he doesn’t hesitate to express his appreciation for what Baker does for his business. “Over the years, I have had hundreds of bowlers tell me how much they like Mark as a coach, and never once has anyone said that they didn’t feel like they got their money’s worth from his lessons. I think what makes him so good and pretty unique is his ability to work with bowlers of all abilities, from beginners to pros. He is a real asset for our center, and we are lucky to have him working with our customers.”

Bowlers sign up on the spot for only $10, and every one of the 30-40 bowlers that usually come in each week get personal attention during the two hour sessions from two great coaches.“We are up to more than 1,100 students this year,” said Asher. “Mark is a good coach, if for no other reason than he works so hard and coaches almost every day. Not many coaches even come close to the sheer volume of the students he teaches. He must average 100 lessons a week,” said Asher. Asher knew Baker would become a good coach when they were watching an old film featuring Hall of Fame bowler and coach Joe Wilman. “In the film, Wilman said ‘the only thing that comes into contact with the approach is your feet, so you better have good footwork,’” said Asher. “When Mark heard that, he said ‘Oh my God, how old is this film?’ When I told him it was more than 70 years ago, he was amazed that it was a basic truth that still applies today.” Dave Husted was elected to the PBA Hall of Fame partly because three of his 14 PBA titles were U.S. Opens; but he also won the Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award twice, and that is what Baker thinks makes him such a good bowling coach. The two best friends roomed and traveled together during Baker’s tour career. “Dave is a great human being and my best friend for 37 years,” said Baker. “Why do we have him on the coaching staff? He is Dave Husted – enough said.” Outside of the camp, Husted also works with Baker and sometimes Chris Barnes when they come to put on clinics in one of Husted’s three Oregon bowling centers. “They usually come up around March or April, and we always have a good group,” said Husted. “My customers really look forward to it every year.

Saturday clinic at Fountain Bowl with Mark Baker and Barry Asher. IBI

December 2017


COVER STORY full-time coaching in 2002. His dad Nick, a successful banker, and his uncle Don, an electrical engineer, helped him build a solid business plan that made it possible.

The Traveling Man

Encouragement is a big part of Baker’s success.

Mark is just a super good guy. If I was ever in need, I know he would be there. He is my best friend.” Many women are regular attendees of Camp Bakes, and Baker thinks it is important to get a woman’s perspective, which is why he includes Robin Romeo among his closest advisors. He has also worked with Tennelle Milligan, Kim Kearney, Kendra Gaines and Lynda Barnes.

Baker’s Coaching Business is Much More than Camps It took Baker a few years to figure out how to make coaching a successful business. After having to leave the pro tour because of injury, he bounced around the mortgage business for a couple of years, worked at a casino, tried his hand at sales representing California Bowling Supply, and he was the West Coast representative for Track Bowling. Also, he did a little coaching with friend Billy Hall. All those years, he kept getting more and more into coaching. “I was giving about 400 lessons a year when I was working full time at Cal Bowling Supply,” said Baker. “For three or four years, it was pretty much seven days a week. I live in Southern California, and it is expensive, so I have to work long and hard to make it.” Baker, his wife Shannon, and their 8-year-old son Gage live in Yorba Linda, CA, but Baker’s business encompasses the entire state and beyond. He credits Shannon for inspiring him to make coaching a full-time profession. “Shannon said to me, ‘When you come home from giving lessons, it is your best mood all week,’” said Baker. “She has encouraged me every step of the way, and my family is the reason I do this.” Baker also has a 22-year-old son, Miles, from his first marriage, who is a college student in Arizona. Mark and Shannon have been married 11 years. With Shannon’s encouragement, Baker decided to take the plunge into 26


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One thing that took Baker a while to learn was that he would have to travel around his region to add more business to make ends meet. “Southern California traffic is no myth,” says Baker. “You can’t expect to stay in one place and have them come to you, so I go to them.” Aside from his trips to Oregon and Las Vegas, Baker has a regular route that puts him in centers around California every month. He spends a couple of days a month in Chula Vista, a couple in the San Fernando Valley, a couple in Oceanside, and visits Northern California four times every year. When home, he does the Saturday clinics with Asher at Fountain Bowl and spends the rest of the week doing individual lessons.

Old Tour Players Can Learn and Teach Young Players New Tricks Baker knew that to be successful in the coaching business, he not only had to work hard; he had to provide his fellow coaches and students with substance, because it is substance that provides the tools for results. Even with all of the hours he was spending traveling to give lessons, he took the time to study hundreds of bowling styles and develop what he calls The Baker System. Not to be confused with the Baker scoring system, Mark’s coaching system simply defines what almost all good bowlers have in common and makes it easy to explain why they are successful. He discovered it while comparing most of the world’s greatest bowlers on video and in person. Baker explains his System in a DVD he made, and in his book The Game Changer. The book came out this year, and Mark talks about the six rewrites on his website before it was published. It is edited by Jason Thomas. Baker explains his System this way: “Every bowler is different, and every bowler wants to be more consistent... the best bowlers are also different, but at certain times in their approach, they all match. My system explains that, and it allows me to find the area to work on quickly for the desired result... better consistency.” A few of the champions Baker has coached include Tommy Jones, Chris Barnes, Mike Fagin, Jason Couch, Mika Koivuniemi, and Bill O’Neill. From the women’s roster, Robin Romeo, Kendra Gaines, Lynda Barnes, Missy Parkin, and several more have benefitted from Baker’s coaching. “With all bowlers, but especially the pros, it is about having a good eye and good communications. You have to make a connection. It is not what I say. It is what do they hear,” said Baker. “The pros are a blast to work with because they can physically perform almost anything you ask of them very quickly, and it is usually only little things they need to get better; but the System works for any average, and I teach students of all abilities.” Testimony to that fact is the roster at the most recent Camp Bakes. Bowlers ranged from ages 15-81, and many of them were back for a second

COVER STORY or third time. Two of Baker’s favorite campers hail from Kansas City. Jennifer Thomas and Joyce Larson just attended their 12th Camp Bakes. They are two of more than 900 who have experienced Camp Bakes and the hospitality of the good people at Sunset Station over the years. “Sunset is the perfect place for Camp Bakes,” said Baker. “Not only do we have the excitement of Las Vegas, but we have everything under one roof, and the people have always treated us great. I’ve been very fortunate to have great relationships with the Sunset Station – in sales, Darlene Fitzgerald and Ashlee DeLong, in the pro shop, Dan Nadeau and now Johnny Petraglia, Jr. do an outstanding job. The bowling center general managers Dennis Matthews, Jim Welch, Joy Francomano, and now Jerry Francomano have all been excellent. And I don’t want to forget Brian Bock. He has helped with every camp since the start.”

Baker/Barnes - A New Coaching Powerhouse Duo Soon-to-be PBA Hall of Fame bowler Chris Barnes has been a guest coach at several Camp Bakes, but his demanding travel and tour schedule has not allowed him to become a regular member of the staff. However, Baker and Barnes enjoy coaching together so much that they have established the all new Baker/Barnes Clinics that are held as often as their schedules allow. Barnes became an admirer of Baker while attending one of his classroom sessions a few years ago. “One year, Mark was doing a presentation on his physical game philosophy and he puts up a picture of Tommy Jones, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard and myself during the second step and asks, ‘Which push-away is wrong?’ At that time, we were all having a pretty good run, but at this critical point, we were all very different. At this point, I moved my chair around to see what the presentation was really about. He showed where 98% of all tour players do match identically and the processes of how to get there. For the first time I understood how I could consistently help other players regardless of skill and I answered a question that I had spoken at length about with coach Susie Minshew, ‘am I good because of, or in spite of?’”  Barnes continues, “In my opinion, he is the best at what he does.  He has Mark Baker and Barry Asher.

Baker always has time for one-on-one coaching.

been on the big stage and has been successful, and experienced the same struggles we have. He has been all in every day I’ve ever worked with him. Mark has super high energy and no one ever gets half effort from him. He is on time, incredibly organized, and can coach a 115 average bowler as well as a tour player.”

Where Does It Go From Here? Mark Baker is now 56, but he is showing no signs of slowing down the coaching juggernaut he has created. Because of his success and the great people he has surrounding him, he may now finally be able to take a little more time to spend with his family. What’s next for the world’s hardest working coach? More videos? More books? More clinics and camps? Perhaps all of those things are in Baker’s future, but maybe his biggest accomplishment is what his coaching does for the game. Because of his passion for the sport, countless people who just bowl are buying balls, joining leagues, competing in tournaments, and calling themselves bowlers. No matter what the future holds for Baker, that is quite a legacy. ❖

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.



December 2017


n Family Roots

THE POWER BEHIND A UNIQUE BRAND Scene75 is a community destination. By Sean Krainert


ith an unceasing surge in technology and innovation year after year, it’s hard to imagine any one brand qualifying as unique enough to set a new standard in entertainment. It would take an almost impossible trifecta of seamless and exceptional customer service, ingenious marketing, and business strategies, plus a rare authentic drive to succeed with a purpose. Not to mention a stream of the latest innovative technologies to support the entire business. Some say it cannot be done. But the facts are that it has already happened! Scene75 literally took over the entertainment scene in 2012. Today, they are the standard in entertainment, and they’ve done it by mastering the perfect combination of unprecedented measures.



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The magic of Scene75 began when Les Sandler and his investment group attained a number of vacant properties in Dayton, OH, over the years with a dream of eventually opening up entertainment centers one day. However, the journey was long and the dollar was short. Les’s son, Jonah, decided that the family dream was not going to die in those empty lots. After graduating from the University of Chicago with an MBA in 2008, he headed straight back home. His mission was to develop plans to build an entertainment center inside of one of those vacant properties. And he did: in 2012, Scene75 Dayton opened its doors. The way the first Scene75 facility kicked off its opening is just a spark of the same uniqueness that distinguishes the brand today. Founder and CEO Jonah Sandler took the lead of the very first campaign, with a total marketing budget close to only $5,000. The construction portion of the Dayton location had consumed the company’s budget. Jonah and his team knew that they only had one shot, at one channel. It could have been one TV ad in one slot or one billboard stacked with words trying to explain the spirit of this rare project. He figured, why bother with marketing efforts anchored in the past, when he could reach his true target audience through the fastest growing channel in the world: social media. His timing was impeccable. It was the first days of Facebook advertising. Within weeks, Jonah had built a local audience of over 20,000 connections on Facebook. To this day, it is still one of the top records for any non-chain entertainment center in the country. To help fellow entrepreneurs, Sandler later wrote a book, Before the Doors Opened, detailing the creation and success of Scene75 in correlation with Facebook marketing.

n Why Social Media? Scene75 is a distinct brand in many ways. But Jonah will tell you that it couldn’t have happened without the platform they decided to build their foundation on. Some may wonder what social media and Facebook friends have to do with marketing a business. Those who own a business that is headed into the future would say: everything! “Rather than just making it an advertising platform, Jonah was able to use the platform as more of a personal blog, building up the experience and journey of Scene75,” says Alex Zorniger, VP of

FEATURE operations, Scene75. “Dayton engaged with it in such a strong way, that all we had to do to announce our opening was post it on our Facebook page. Within an hour or two, we had lines out the door!” While some brands may find a disconnect between their products or services and social media, other industries thrive on its continuing evolution. Entertainment and bowling centers offer an experience that is based on the five senses. Walking in the front door, a guest’s visual and auditory perception is an essential component of the overall customer experience. Companies like Scene75 know that it is extremely powerful to be able to use social media platforms and channels like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook to basically show and tell what they offer before the guests arrive. These visual cues create a connection to the brand in the customer’s mind, prior to physically experiencing it. When guests finally arrive, their familiarity generates an intimate connection to the experience. Zorniger took the social marketing a step further. Not only were images a cornerstone in their marketing plans, but the words that accompanied pictures in reviews have been invaluable. “Word of mouth, saying how great experiences are within our centers, is so important. When you hear from a friend that a place is great, you take that to heart, instead of when you see a commercial. We highly encourage sharing experiences from within our facilities. We have selfie stations, a custom hashtag and even a customized Snapchat filter.”

n Building A Community:

The Power of a Brand The social media channel has done more than attract guests and create revenue for Scene75. It has helped them to connect with the communities around the facilities. TV, newspaper, radio and billboards are all a one-way communication tool, which is what turned Jonah and his team on to the importance of using social media. With this tool, Scene75 didn’t just build entertainment centers—they harnessed the power of connecting and engaging with guests in a two-way relationship. “The platforms help us to build more of a personal story rather than just a company. Scene75 is a familyrun business that is trying to build something for the community,” says Zorniger. Scene75 is a not only a popular entertainment destination for their surrounding areas, they are community leaders. They interact with their communities through hosting fundraisers for local organizations, donating to local raffles, attending local events and volunteering across their regions. When a Scene75 employee walks into a market or store or school, oftentimes people will stop them and come up and share a story about an experience they had.



December 2017


Hiring staff is also anther way that the company reaches out to the community and invites them in. Their impassioned efforts to be an employer of choice in the region has resulted in a seamless customer experience across all three facilities. The company hosts open interviews monthly when needed, provides online applications, and posts across social media and other job postings sites to welcome new applicants. They also source a large amount of their team members from word of mouth referrals and from guests who come in for an experience and want to be a part of it. Scene75 hasn’t just gained local attention for their deep-hearted efforts in Ohio. In 2016, their Cincinnati location was named Top Family Entertainment Center in North America by the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions). Also in the top three was Scene75’s Dayton location, making it the first time in IAAPA history that two of the top three finalists were from the same brand. Scene75 also took home the Best Public Relations Campaign for FECs and/or Attractions with Annual Attendance Less Than 250,000. “It’s a great accomplishment, and I was very proud. An award is one thing—but it’s really about being recognized and sharing in the pride with the teams that help put everything together,” says Sandler.

landlord allowed them to purchase it. After a couple months of knocking down walls, Scene75 began molding the additional 25,000 square feet into a 12lane bowling center. Partnering with QubicaAMF for the project was a natural go-to for Scene75. Their relationship with QubicaAMF began when they first started business, leading to extremely successful mini bowling attractions in each of the three properties. The full-size QubicaAMF bowling lanes, dubbed The Pin Deck, opened in November. When asked about bowling for the other sites, Sandler noted that they needed to see how it works at the first location. “If it’s truly a unique element that begins to transform our existing model even further, we may look to add bowling to our Dayton location,” he said. Keeping up to their own high bar and thriving passion to exceed the norms, Scene75 opened what Sandler notes might be the only one of its kind in the nation: Food Truck Alley. Instead of a full-service bar and grill like the other two locations, the new Cleveland facility gave Jonah and his team an opportunity to create a new concept. While food trucks are popular across the nation and around the globe, they wanted to create an indoor food truck theme to allow guests to enjoy the dining yearround, regardless of weather. To make the space work, they physically cut food trucks in half and positioned them around the large indoor “alley.” While they all look like full-size food trucks, the design allowed them to build out the kitchens behind them. Scene75 partnered with a few, different local places that already had food trucks in the area, allowing them to operate their brands within Scene75 on an opportunist basis.

n Epic Attractions

n The Architype

Scene75 is a one-stop destination when it comes to on-site entertainment. The build up of anticipation across their social media platforms and buzz throughout the communities are an accurate portrayal of what guests find inside. Dayton opened in 2012 with over 120,000 square feet, Cincinnati in 2015 with 84,000 square feet, and Cleveland this year with 80,00 square feet, all packed with every attraction imaginable. The three facilities include private rooms to rent for parties, mini bowling, go karts, black-light mini golf, 4-dimensional ride simulators, bumper cars, pool tables, foosball, bouncing areas, laser tags, video games, and the list goes on! The Cincinnati location recently expanded into the adjacent vacant strip mall and office suites in order to add to their portfolio of attractions. Cincinnati general manager, Mike Duchene, said when they originally moved into the old Kmart building, the landlord had hoped other businesses would move in next door. But when Scene75 realized the potential of the space for bowling lanes, they asked again, and the

Scene75 is making their mark on the entertainment industry, and it’s not just because of their epic attractions and commitment to exceeding expectations. They are building the model for others to follow, with a clear focus on the need to engage the community and grow with and for them. Jonah Sandler says it best: “We are a community destination. It is our obligation and responsibility to build and create for those around us. There is power behind our brand to really help change our community for the better.” ❖



December 2017

Sean Krainert is a freelance copywriter living in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in real estate, hospitality and mental health writing. He is also an alumni of the Wichita State Shocker bowling program.


r e n r C o he of t h

d o o h r o b h g i Ne

innovation n e e w t e b s a balance history. e g ik r in t t s ia s c e e r n a n while app Town Hall L io t a r lo p x e and

By Mark Miller


ntering Town Hall Lanes, which is located in a growing urban neighborhood just north of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, one can’t help but notice the two old-fashioned, wooden, swinging, saloon-like doors. Once inside, an oversized, antique bar with an extensive array of beer taps and many bottles of alcohol makes a grand impression. Directly adjacent to the grand bar is the restaurant where customers can sample the in-house brewed beer and drinks and eat freshly cooked and locally sourced food. This isn’t just the latest brewpub in a growing empire of them, it’s a renovated bowling center too. What was called Skylanes Bowling Center for more than 50 years has been known as Town Hall Lanes since 2013. It is named after Town Hall Brewery, the craft brewery started 20 years ago by owner Peter Rifakes. It’s a place that fits nicely into the neighborhood that the Madison, WI, native and partner Paul Dzbnur stumbled across several years ago. It’s a place where those who live nearby and beyond can enjoy a very unique atmosphere which is typical of all of their other businesses. “We try to bring not just that trendy stuff,” says Rifakes, “but [also] craft 38


December 2017

beer and good, local food and local ingredients to the urban neighborhoods.” Town Hall Lanes originally opened as Skylanes in 1957 and had just two previous owners. The second, John Sorensen, had it from 1973 until he sold it to Rifakes and Dzbnur, who invested $1.5 million to upgrade the place. The ceiling was so badly leaking, buckets were hanging above the 10 lanes. “It had kind of run its course and was in a little bit of disrepair,” Rifakes said. “We had a vision to put in a really cool antique bar and run our beer out of it, and it took off from there. One of the things that we really wanted to do was upgrade the bowling alley. As a kid, a friend of mine from Madison and I had bowled at Schwoegler’s. We weren’t the greatest bowlers, but we were pretty competitive people. We continued to bowl in Minnesota and when you bowl on unkempt lanes, it’s no fun if you’re competitive. That’s one of the things we really wanted to do.” Rifakes found the large bar, which was built in Iowa in the 1890s, while at an auction in Walla Walla, WA, and had it transported in three pieces on a flat-bed truck. “They don’t make them like that anymore,” said Mehtab Taylor, Town Hall Lanes’ general manager, who

SPOTLIGHT was a server, bartender, and later manager at Town Hall Brewery for over 10 years. “We’re one of the only places in the neighborhood that has hard liquor. It’s mostly beer. We attract a little bit different clientele.” The renovations resulted in a facility with about 3,000 square feet of space and seats for about 120 people to eat and drink. Like any new place, it took a bit of rebranding to introduce the neighborhood to the concept. “It took a good, solid year for everybody to know we were here,” Taylor said. “But we do pretty well. We have a great neighborhood turnout. The neighborhood (East Nokomis) is what keeps us going really. It’s still a hidden gem. There’s a lot of young families moving in. It’s quite a bit of a generational change with a lot of diversity.” Town Hall Lanes features four ciders and about 24 beers on tap, plus five house and five seasonal beers produced by the brewery. The food focuses on flatbreads made fresh in pizza ovens plus hamburgers and sandwiches. “All of Pete’s restaurants have a few signature items like po-boy, black bean burger, different renditions of burgers,” Taylor said. Rifakes got the original idea for his businesses while in graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle where the craft beer scene was just starting to take off. A financial consultant by trade, he was hired by Northwest Airlines which was based in the Twin Cities. Soon after relocating, Rifakes wrote a business plan, quit his job, and took the plunge with his old friend and bowling buddy Scott McClure to open Town Hall Brewery near downtown Minneapolis in 1997. It was among the first of its kind in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and among a small number throughout Minnesota. McClure left the business a year later, leaving Rifakes on his own to win a medal at the 2000 Great American Beer Festival. Dzbnur joined

GM Mehtab Taylor.

him in 2010, and that year they opened Town Hall Tap in south Minneapolis followed by Town Hall Lanes. In June of this year, they added a fourth location called Town Hall Station in an old gas station in Edina. It followes their standard to incorporate the best features of the neighborhoods and buildings where their businesses are located. Today, all those businesses are doing well. At Town Hall Lanes, there are full leagues Mondays through Thursdays, from September to April (a double shift on Thursdays), and one in the summer. Fridays through Sunday are reserved for open bowling and parties. Rifakes competes in one league in the summer and one in the winter where he’s averaged as high as the low 180s. Taylor competed in the Industry League including staff from the company restaurants for many years until having a child. She averaged about 160. Now she watches over a place that’s helping set new trends in the bowling business. “People say bowling is on the decline, but people really like to bowl at our place,” Rifakes said. “I think if you provide customers with a good atmosphere and some nice lanes, they’re going to start bowling. And there’s quite a few younger people, too, which is fun to see. It’s the open play that gets people competitive. It’s somewhat cyclical. If you can get the competitive people to play it competitively, then it’s going to come around that way as well.” If Rifakes’ reputation as a successful entrepreneur continues, both he and bowling should prosper in Minneapolis. ❖

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 or directly from him at



December 2017



December 2017


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December 2017

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December 2017




T’IS THE SEASON hristmas and bowling are best pals. Throughout the years, some of the best gifts found under the tree are bowling gifts: shoes, balls, and bags lead the list. During the 1960s, leading manufacturers of bowling products took up space in all sorts of magazines, tempting givers and wishers alike. Today is not much different. Well, more online activity, but the outcome is the same—make someone happy. How about a new bowling ball or a bag with wheels for easy traveling?


We wish you all a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas. Take some time out and visit your local bowling entertainment center! - Patty Heath



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IBI December 2017