THE WORLD'S ONLY MAGAZINE DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BUSINESS OF BOWLING
6 ISSUE AT HAND
Another Itinerary of a Lifetime
Brand New After Seven Decades Amarillo’s Western Bowl gets a makeover.
By Scott Frager
By Jim Goodwin
8 SHORTS • PBA inks deal with FOX Sports • The Real Deal in the Bronx • At ZOT: Linda Fortney retires and Debbie Rosendahl joins the team. • San Francisco debuts August Hall & Fifth Arrow • LAI Games wins AMOA Innovator Award
BEYOND BOWLING 50 Power of Partnership at Bowl Expo
56 Apex Hits New Heights
62 Getting (Justin) Ripp’ed at Shenaniganz
By Patty Heath
18 CONSIDER THIS
Bringing Out The Best
Sorry, Not Sorry By thinking afterwards first, you can avoid regret
Frank Buffa, Montreal’s other great coach. By Robert Sax
By Ben Jones
82 REMEMBER WHEN
Looking at Life from Both Sides
Iowa BPA’s ED Bev Van Blair runs the association from an experienced point of view.
The Big Lebowski By Patty Heath
By Marci Williams
30 COVER STORY
25 Years Young
The Evolution of QubicaAMF By Scott Frager
PUBLISHER & EDITOR Scott Frager email@example.com Skype: scottfrager
ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER David Garber firstname.lastname@example.org
OFFICE MANAGER Patty Heath email@example.com
CONTRIBUTORS Scott Frager Jim Goodwin Patty Heath Ben Jones George McAuliffe Howard McAuliffe Robert Sax Marci Williams
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Jackie Fisher firstname.lastname@example.org
ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION Designworks www.dzynwrx.com (818) 735-9424
FOUNDER Allen Crown (1933-2002)
12655 Ventura Boulevard Studio City, CA 91604 (818) 789-2695(BOWL) Fax (818) 789-2812 email@example.com
HOTLINE: 818-789-2695 SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One copy of International Bowling Industry is sent free to every bowling center, independently owned pro shop and collegiate bowling center in the U.S., and every military bowling center and pro shop worldwide. Publisher reserves the right to provide free subscriptions to those individuals who meet publication qualifications. Additional subscriptions may be purchased for delivery in the U.S. for $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.
MEMBER AND/OR SUPPORTER OF:
ISSUE AT HAND
Another Itinerary of a Lifetime One of the greatest treats about my job, here at IBI, is being able to travel. I’ve been so blessed to have been able to attend trade shows, meetings and events around the world these past 25 years. However, even sweeter than the wondrous act of traveling, are the business and personal relationships I’ve been able to develop with IBI ’s amazing advertisers and supporters. With IBI being a worldwide publication, I could be on the road almost continuously and still not be able to reach everyone on our wish list. A couple of months ago, IBI ’s associate publisher David Garber and I went on one of those trips of a lifetime. We started in Denver visiting PJ Rosendahl, owner of ZOT Pinsetter Products. Then, we drove to Colorado Springs to participate in the 2018 F2FEC conference. Taking advantage of our proximity to Denver International, we decided to hop a jet to visit the factory and headquarters of Switch Bowling Equipment in Izmir, Turkey. Never having been to Turkey before, I fell in love with the country, the people, and the warm hospitality. We had some wonderfully productive meetings and were treated like VIPs by our friends at Switch. As long as we were across The Pond, we had to visit Bologna, Italy, to learn and report on QubicaAMF’s 25th silver anniversary. Our few days in Italy were filled with interviews, food, wine, meetings, food, and more
food and spirits. I hope you enjoy this month’s cover story as this is one of the very few stories in 25 years that features my name in the byline. Any one of those trips would have been enough to call rewarding. Together, they added up to a trip of a lifetime. However, our journey was not complete until we met with Hans Kroll and his team at Bowltech International in Made, The Netherlands. And, even though we missed a day of business due to flight problems, we made it up by packing in 48 hours of appreciation condensed in an 18-hour time frame. All in all, we visited six countries (flight diversion included) in 14 days and travelled more than 17,000 air miles. If you think about it, you too have friends around the world. If you’ve ever bought a scoring system, a set of pins, rental shoes or pinsetter parts, I encourage you to call the supplier and plan your own trip of a lifetime. There is no doubt you will not only come away impressed with their factory and headquarters, but you will make friends for a lifetime.
– SCOTT FRAGER, PUBLISHER AND EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAINERTAINMENT AND IBI PROUDLY PRESENT
FIND THE TRAINERTAINMENT GUY CONTEST! Grow Your Business. Grow Your People. Grow Your Audience. This month of May, Trainertainment and IBI have teamed up to create a fun contest for our readers to win fabulous prizes. Throughout the May issue, you will see the Trainer Guy logo. The contest is simple: Go through the entire issue and count the number of Trainer Guy logos you find. Then email the correct answer to either Garber@Bowlingindustry.com or Beth@Trainertainment.net. You will have until June 1st to submit your answer. All winners that submit the correct answer will be put into a drawing for a chance to win the grand prize of on-sight training with a value of $2,495. *Travel costs are not included to Arlington, TX. 6
The next three names to be drawn will receive free spots for the August Trainertainment Advanced Sales Conference, hosted at the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, TX, a value of $200/per spot.* This conference will help create a winning sales attitude in your center by increasing birthday party and group party sales. Two more names will be drawn to receive $50 gift cards courtesy of Trainertainment and IBI. Enjoy the May issue of IBI, and make sure to keep track of the Trainer Guy logo for your chance to win these great prizes.
EXPANSIONS, OPENINGS & NEW BEGINNINGS
While bowling centers and FECs have been taking over slumping malls, there is always the turnabout. Playdium opened in 1940 in Albany, NY. It was the crème de la crème for the time, a bowling showplace. That was then and now friends and family have to say goodbye. A developer plans to construct a 109-unit apartment complex in its place. Neil Luther, 71, has owned the Playdium since 1983. He shared that maintaining a cranky old bowling alley Playdium in its heyday. is difficult and the fact that it outlasted all the other centers in town, which are gone, shows that Playdium is/was a survivor. What’s to come.
SAN FRANCISCO WELCOMES AUGUST HALL & FIFTH ARROW In the 1890s, the building was called the Native Sons of the Golden West, located in the Union Square district. Still standing tall, it more recently became Ruby Skye, a nightclub catering to young fans of DJ music and electronic dance shows. Now, the space has reinvented itself with the help of Nate Valentine, a restaurateur and developer, and is August Hall, named after the original designer, August Headman. It is still a music hall but is now partnered with a separate restaurant including three lanes of bowling. With the historic bent to the building, one would think the new restaurant’s name, Fifth Arrow, would be some reference to the West and Native Americans. However, that is far from the truth. Fifth Arrow is named for a mark on bowling lanes used by ace bowlers. Good food, music and bowling will headline this now opened venue in San Francisco.
BOWLING IS BACK IN SANTA FE Bowling left Santa Fe, NM, in 2009 with the closing of Silva Lanes and the opening of Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Joey and Hannah Padilla, who grew up in Northern New Mexico and own and manage Santa Fe Tails, a dog day care, training, and boarding facility, are bringing bowling back. Alley Lanes & Lounge, a 20,000-square-foot, 12-lane bowling center located in DeVargas Center, will open in late summer. Besides the lanes, there will be two indoor bocce ball courts, billiards, darts, and a retro arcade. US Bowling Corp. will supply the lanes, equipment, and design for the facility.
ROUND ONE ‘COMING SOON’ TO A STATE NEAR YOU Round One Entertainment Inc., a Japanese company similar to Dave & Buster’s, operates a chain of entertainment centers with bowling, table tennis, billiard tables, darts, karaoke, and an arcade. The locations also offer food, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. The business plan seems to focus on shopping malls looking to revitalize their customer draw. Round 1 venues may be found in 20 states, with 16 “coming soon” locations. Two of those will be found in Temecula, CA, and Greendale, WI. The Temecula site is due to open in the spring of 2019, occupying the first floor of a Sears building, with Sears moving to the second floor. Round 1 Greendale will also be found in a Sears space at Southridge Mall. The redevelopment will have the first floor occupied by Dick’s Sporting Goods and the second floor will reopen as Round 1. The other 16 in the planning stages cover 11 states crisscrossing the U.S.
ANOTHER BOX SPACE REIMAGINED Piggly Wiggly is out and 810 Billiards and Bowling is in. Michael Siniscalchi owns 710 Burgers Bocce Beer and Bowling in North Myrtle Beach, SC. With the success of 710, he has expanded with 810 Billiards and Bowling in Myrtle Beach, opening in June. The new 43,000-square-foot location is bigger than 710 but no bocce ball to be had. Talking to myrtlebeachonline.com, Siniscalchi said, “Ultimately it came down to trying to broaden the brand a little bit. Not too many people knew this, but the 710 was actually supposed to be an homage to the 7-10 split in bowling. It’s supposed to be the hardest split to pick up. So, going to 810, we’ve incorporated billiards more in the brand. It’s a reference to 8-ball pool and 10-pin bowling, which are kind of the core of what we deliver on the entertainment side.”
ß BITS & PIECES ß ß ß
UK’s Ten Entertainment Group on a roll
According to StockMarketWire.com, Ten Entertainment Group posted a rise in annual profit after tax of 43%. The second largest ten-pin operator in the UK has 42 centers and 1,000 lanes. Profits were affected by the addition of new sites, boosted footfall at existing sites, and sales of products. ---------------------------------------------------------------
International Woman’s Day March 8 was International Woman’s Day. Pursuing equal rights, this designated woman’s day was celebrated throughout the world. In Afghanistan, the first female bowling competition was held at Strikers bowling center in Kabul. It should be pointed out that Strikers is owned by an Afghan-Canadian woman. ---------------------------------------------------------------
LAI Games wins AMOA Innovator Award Virtual Reality (VR) was a big item at the 2018 AMOA Amusement Expo, held in Las Vegas, February 28–March 1. LAI Games’ Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride received the expo’s innovator award. The company has won the AMOS Innovator Award multiple times in recent years. The ride employs stateof-the-art technology including a D-Box motion platform, HTC Vive headsets, dynamic wind simulation, and hi-fi audio. ---------------------------------------------------------------
OLD SCHOOL IN THE BRONX Bowling seems to be going in different directions at the same time. There is the high-end FEC and the centers going retro. But once in a while, you find the real thing. Van Nest Lanes in the Bronx is old school. Now a coowner, Jim Farago began working at the center in 1964 and is still there, doing just about everything. The décor is ‘as is’ with rows of aqua-colored seating, orange and yellow ball racks, well-worn wooden lanes, and vintage Brunswick pinsetter machines in cool spearmint green. There are no automated scoring machines; scoring on page is mandatory. Corey Kilgannon of The New York Times, visited with Farago in January. He told Kilgannon that he grew up four blocks away from the lanes and began working in his teens as a pin chaser. He bought into the business in 1979 and still
80 Years Young Fiore’s Restaurant and Bowling is celebrating its 80th year in business. It first opened in 1937 in New Lexington, OH, and added the bowling lanes in 1940. It has been a mainstay for families to eat and bowl ever since. One item not on the menu but a popular choice is fried peanuts, with regular salt, hot, or mesquite flavorings. They go well with bowling. The restaurant fare is traditional Italian, with pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and varieties of alfredo and rigatoni. ---------------------------------------------------------------
Betson Enterprises hosts Spring Open Houses Betson Enterprises, providing amusement games, vending equipment, parts, and billiards, held two open houses: one in its location in Myrtle Beach, SC, and the other in the newest location in Orlando, FL. Attendees, including FEC owners and operators, were shown the new equipment lineup for this year.
lives nearby. “I’m a worker, I’m a mechanic, I’m the janitor, I’m the electrician, I maintain the A.C., the heating,” said Farago, who also has babysitting duty in his back office for his granddaughter once in a while. He knows his center. “I can just tell when something’s not right,” he said while working on a glitch in one of the machines. “They’ll never make anything like this again, because it lasts too long.” The environment lends itself to movie making. Some of the films shot in Van Nest are American Ganster, Men in Black 3 and more recently Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. A nice place to visit, but you really should bowl there.
Tournaments at a Glance ‘THE PETE’ NOW INCLUDES YOUTH BOWLERS Bowlero Corporation (formerly Bowlmor AMF) has announced that the Petersen Classic, one of bowling’s oldest traditions, will reach out to youth bowlers with three special squads on designated Junior Pete days. The 108th contest runs between April 27 and September 2 at Brunswick Zone River Grove in River Grove, IL. Any prizes won by youth participants will be paid into their SMART scholarship accounts. The Petersen will also include an additional, guaranteed $500 towards the first-place prize for the top youth bowler. Founded by Louis P. Petersen in 1921, over 850,000 bowlers have won more than $31 million in the Petersen. Top adult prizes in the singles event include: $20,000 for first place; $10,000 for second place; $4,000 for third place; and even $1,000 for 40th place.
WORLD BOWLING TOUR LOCATIONS The World Bowling Tour (WBT) has posted the venues for the 2018 tour, featuring ten stops in Germany, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the U.S. The tour began in Munich, Germany, in March. Then Syracuse, NY, hosted the USBC Masters in April. The remaining events are as follows: USBC Queens, May 16-22, in Reno, NV; Busan Cub, May 20-26, in Busan, Korea; U.S. Women’s Open, June 23-30, in Orlando, FL; Storm Lucky Larsen Masters, Aug 25-Sep 9, in Malmo, Sweden; WBT/PBA World Bowling Tour Thailand, Sep 22-28, in Bangkok; U.S. Open, Oct 24-31, in Wichita, KS; PBA World Series of Bowling X, date and time in Nov-Dec TBA; and World Men’s Championship, Nov 24-Dec 5, in Hong Kong, China.
USBC OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS Picked at random, Patrick VanWagenen of Kingston, NY, kicked off the U.S. Bowling Congress 2018 Open Championships tournament on March 24, by rolling out the first ball on lane 28. 40,000 bowlers from all over the world bowled on 48 lanes specially installed in Oncenter in Syracuse, NY. 14
PEOPLEWATCHING There is change afoot at ZOT Pinsetter Parts. The customer service manager, Linda Fortney, retired at the end of February. She has been the contact and voice for customers for almost ten years. Debbie Rosendahl is joining the team as Customer Relations & Systems Analyst. Linda Fortney Her background includes a 15-year career in banking, an education in computer programming, and an 11-year career in retail sales. Rosendahl also runs a route business with ZOT GlossBoss ball conditioners for Colorado centers and is a bowler of note and former member of the PWBA. Debbie Rosendahl UNIS Technology, with headquarters in Ontario, Canada, has brought aboard Logan Schneider as part of its sales team. Schneider will be based at the Dallas office and will be working with Debbie Gonzalez, sales manager, as a point of contact for inquiries, customer service, and introducing new products. He previously worked as a Logan Schneider business developer for United Capital Registered Financial Advisers in Houston, TX.
PBA INKS DEAL WITH FOX According to a press release, the PBA and FOX Sports announced a multi-year, multi-platform agreement making FOX Sports the new television partner for the Go Bowling! PBA Tour starting in 2019. This will end the long-time partnership with ESPN. The FOX package will offer a schedule of live PBA events, including prime time events and a multi-week PBA playoffs tournament that concludes with a unique PBA championship finale. The announcement was made by PBA CEO and Commissioner Tom Clark and William Wanger, FOX Sports. The agreement between FOX Sports and the PBA extends a non-stop television presence for professional bowling that began in 1962 with ABC Television’s coverage of the Pro Bowlers Tour and 38 consecutive years of coverage on ESPN.
By thinking afterwards first, you can avoid regret.
or, said another way, ‘I didn’t think about afterwards first.’ ‘Think afterwards’ is all about the finish. Sometimes thinking afterwards is simply about managing expectations and can be a quick mental process which, when put into play, eliminates the necessity for an apology. Other times, thinking afterwards is a lengthy, time consuming analysis of potential consequences. Regardless, life and every decision is about the outcome precipitated by our actions/decisions: how you close, how you make up, how you move on, how you forgive, how you love, and how you move through time. Start strong, with a loving heart, finish stronger with a still open and receptive heart. How? By always thinking afterwards first. After action is afterwards. ❖
By Ben Jones
hat does the phrase ‘I am sorry’ mean really? Does it mean that ‘it’ will never happen again? Sometimes ‘it’ means ‘I’m sorry that I got caught.’ Most of the time ‘it’ means ‘I am sorry that I didn’t think about possible outcomes of my actions before I took action’
Ben Jones is General Manager and FEC Specialist of Entertainment Center Financing at Live Oak Bank, cocreator of F2FEC, and has been in the FEC business for over 30 years.
LOOKING AT LIFE FROM BOTH SIDES Iowa BPA’s ED Bev Van Blair runs the association from an experienced point of view.
Bev Van Blair
By Marci Williams
ev Van Blair had an interesting path to becoming the Iowa BPA executive director, but one thing is certain: bowling and Iowa are lucky that she followed the path. Bev and her husband, Jeff, owned their own bowling center in Newton, Iowa (population 15,000). Jeff was an industrial engineer for Maytag and loved to bowl. Bev’s dad was a retired farmer and needed an investment so he said yes to help finance Bev and Jeff’s bowling center purchase. Jeff knew very little about bowling center operations when he made the purchase. He once replied, “What do you mean ‘strip the lanes?’”when asked what kind of oil he used. The questioning gentleman took a towel, a squeegee and taught Jeff how to strip the lanes. Bev said they quickly learned that, in the bowling industry, somebody is always willing to help; you just need to ask. They ran Cardinal Lanes for 34 years. Jeff worked the back and pro shop while Bev took care of the office, the youth, and customer service. On average, it takes 2,500 people to support one bowling lane so their 20 lane center technically needed a population of 50,000 to be successful; however, with Maytag running three full shifts, they beat the average. Newton was known as the Washing Machine Capital of the World until 2007 when the Whirlpool Corporation bought Maytag and closed the 20
Newton facility. Jeff and Bev were able to hold on until 2015. During their years as proprietors, Bev served as president of the Iowa BPA and served on the national BPAA board, representing the western central region. She earned the 2008 BPAA Proprietor of the Year in Iowa. At the national level, while chairing the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, she received the BPAA Special Project Award for creating B.O.W.L. (Bowling Organization for Women’s Leadership). In 2008, after the devastating floods which affected Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Bev created the website Flood Bowl and helped proprietors coordinate efforts to offer bowling parties to those affected by the floods. She remembers it meant the world to the victims to be able to leave their hotel rooms or FEMA housing to go bowling for an afternoon. For her efforts, Bev was awarded the BCM Community Service Award in 2009. In the meantime, in Des Moines, IA (35 miles west of Newton), the executive director for the Iowa BPA had passed away and the officer group was acting as the executive director. When Bev gave her resignation from the Iowa BPA board, it was suggested she apply for the executive director position. Jeff was ready to retire, but Bev was not. She applied, and on June 1, 2015, she became the Iowa BPA executive director and the Van Blairs moved to Des Moines. It was difficult to change communities but, thankfully, they were moving closer to kids and grandkids. continued on page 26...
IT’S YOUR MONEY SPONSORED CONTENT BY WBPI
RIDING A BIKE THROUGH KANDAHAR Are Commercial Video Systems Worth the
STICKER SHOCK? By Cameron Linder
had a proprietor tell me recently that he took our recommendation to get a bid from a commercial video surveillance company and that the price he got back was so astronomical that he thought it was a waste of his time. Sticker shock is of course relative to your expectations, but it’s not the first time someone has shared this reaction with me. On the other hand, I’ve also had situations where there was an incident at a bowling center and their DVR, low and behold, revealed nothing but blank screens and error messages. You know what they say when a video surveillance system doesn’t work when you need it most? You got screwed! What I often find is that the video systems that fail the most are the ones that are terribly old or use residential grade equipment. Yes, commercial grade video surveillance systems are thousands more expensive than the residential equipment you can purchase at your local Sam’s Club or Home Depot. However, in my experience, it’s worth the investment.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE, OTHER THAN THE PRICE TAG? A residential grade system is intended primarily for residents to view live footage and to the extent that it records anything, it’s only recorded when the camera is motion activated. When you apply that mentality to a bowling center which has constant activity, you stress the hardware far beyond its intended application. A commercial system envisions the use of all cameras 24/7, and the DVR is built to handle recording 24/7 footage at 20 frames per second across 24 cameras for the next 30 days! Using a residential system in a bowling center is like taking a Hummer H3 loaded with troops into Kandahar instead of a fully armored Humvee with a .50 cal affixed to the turret. Sure, the Hummer and Humvee look similar—they both have 4-wheel drive, carry troops, and get terrible gas mileage. But one is meant for the streets of Los Angeles and the other for the 24
bullet-ridden streets of Kandahar. The quality of a commercial system is exponentially higher than the stuff you can buy at your local warehouse store, and let’s face it, being a business owner in today’s litigious culture can sometimes feel like navigating in a war zone. You pay for video surveillance systems so that people can’t take advantage of you. The video can prove if an employee is stealing from you or if a customer damaged your property; and it can prove if someone who says they slipped and fell on spilled water actually fell because they crossed the foul line. The money video systems save you is significant, and from an insurance perspective, having video of what happened is priceless and makes attorneys run for the hills. The return on investment from a reliable, functioning video system is substantial. With most customers experiencing sticker shock, reputable security companies offer financing or even lease payments to make it affordable over time. Do commercial-grade systems also fail? Sure, but not nearly as often as residential systems, and they usually come backed by a warranty or customer service and support. Our recommendation is to invest in quality so that it will protect you when you need it most. Simply can’t afford the investment? Well, I have a new savings project for you. Though in the meantime, having a residential system is better than having no system at all. Having an H3 would still be better than riding a bicycle through Kandahar. ❚
Cameron Linder is a former Air Force Captain who used to manage milliondollar base security upgrade projects. Leveraging this experience, he's served the insurance needs of bowling proprietors since 2014 and is the CEO of Western Bowling Proprietors Insurance.
PROFILE ...continued from page 20
Bev humbly admits that being ED suits her capabilities well and agreed that having been a proprietor and having served on the board were beneficial to her doing her job well. She has walked in the shoes of a proprietor so she appreciates how difficult but rewarding it can be. (She does not miss working nights and every week-end!) The executive committee comes in monthly and the board meets twice a year to give Bev goals and direction. Membership is always a big goal and accomplished largely by personal visits. Youth is also a main focus. The Iowa BPA offers the Grand Prix Bowling Scholarship program to its member centers which Bev administers. The office is also part of the Iowa Bowling Council, a combination of USBC men, women, and youth state organizations, which to date has provided over $206,000 in scholarship dollars. Since high school bowling is a varsity sport run by the schools, the Iowa BPA runs coaches clinics every year to train all levels of coaches. Middle school bowling is being promoted with tournaments so the kids are prepared for high school bowling. Along with the normal financial duties of paying the bills, monitoring income, taxes, and audits, Bev’s job is to provide resources to take care of the members and to promote member benefits. The Iowa BPA puts together a yearly trade show with educational seminars and speakers, and host a three day management school. As the Iowa ED, Bev is very involved with the Iowa Games, an Olympic-style event started in 1987. There are 60 sports for all Iowans, from children to senior citizens, to compete in for medals. Bowling is considered a summer sport. The national state games will be held in Des Moines in 2021. In addition to her bowling responsibilities, her office manages the Iowa Operators of Music and Amusements (IOMA) which runs dart and pool leagues. Bev and Jeff will celebrate 49 years of marriage this year. Bev said things were different in the 70s when they married 26
and had four children. Her degree is in teaching, but she was a substitute teacher in order to stay home with her kids. After the kids were in bed, she worked in the basement for a window treatment company. When she and Jeff bought the center, Bev quickly learned that she found it more fun to teach bowling than English. Jeff continues to bowl four nights a week. Bev bowls one night a week, on Mondays, and says she always looks forward to it and finds it funny because she used to dread Mondays - it was catchup day when she was a proprietor. Do you remember the song by Joni Mitchell “Both Sides Now?” It talks about looking at life from both sides, and Bev most certainly has looked at bowling from both sides. Isn’t bowling lucky she has? ❖ Ms. Williams worked at Learjet Inc. (now Bombardier Learjet) for 33 years before retiring in 2005 as a corporate tax accountant. She served on the USBC board of directors for nine years, the BPAA board of directors for four years and the BVL board of directors for seven years. Her high game is a 300, and she is a proud supporter of the Wichita State and Newman University bowling programs.
By Scott Frager
here were you 25 years ago this month? 1993 was a demonstrative year for the world: Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States; Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk both received Nobel Peace Prizes; and the European Union was formally established. In an array of terrible foreshadowing, the
World Trade Center was bombed, for the first time. North Korea announced plans that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. And, while Big Blue (IBM) reported the single greatest financial loss in U.S. corporate history, just under $5 billion, three young men in Italy were preparing to embark on a bowling business journey of their lives. By the time the quarter century would pass,
From left to right: Lucien Rochefort, Emanuele Govoni, Guido Sorba, Frank Mascadri, Luca Drusiani, Roberto Vaioli, Pat Ciniello. Photos courtesy of QubicaAMF 30
COVER STORY their business story would be worthy of a white paper study at any major university business school. While this writer is not a financial historian, research shows that while these were turbulent times in the world economy, the U.S. was just coming out of a short-lived recession. Fueled by the boom of the Internet high-tech, low interest rates, low energy prices and a growing housing market, the U.S. was primed for prosperity. Back in Italy, three young entrepreneurs - Emanuele Govoni, Luca Drusiani and Roberto Vailoli - had decided to jump ship from the relative comfort of their well-paid and secure jobs at another small Italian bowling scoring company to create their own technology company focused entirely in the bowling business. Their dream was big and they knew that there was no way they could accomplish much if they stayed employees. The troika felt that, at that time, current industry product offerings fell way short of their potential. Systems back then were complicated to use for both the proprietors, the management, and the customers. Govini opined, “One had to be an engineer or rocket scientist to use the current scoring systems.” These men knew in their hearts that if the game of bowling was fun and engaging, so must be everything associated with it. That included everything from the physical interface with the customer to the cables channeled underground or buried in ceilings that the customers would never see. According to co-founder Govoni, he and his partners were “young and arrogant” when they set out to build their company. What has arguably become one of the “largest and most successful” bowling equipment providers in the world was launched with a series of unfortunate accidents. This innocence would be the new-founded company’s saving grace in more ways than one in the months and years ahead. The ultimate genesis of Qubica grew from the single spark that bowling is much greater than the sum of its sporting parts. Bowling has always had the inherent qualities that make up a great sport. No surprise for the nearly 12,000 bowling centers that flourished in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. However, by 1993 the bowling industry was fast approaching the critical tipping point where the league bowler count would be outnumbered by the growing mass of open play bowling. Bowling centers were disappearing from the landscape at a rapid pace for many reasons, and proprietors were beginning to get concerned about the direction of their fate. The three Generation X partners relied on their instincts and a $20,000 investment coming from an Italian bowling distributor named Guido Sorba, who officially became Qubica’s fourth partner, to breathe their newborn
company to life. “We were kids. We were driven by technology. We wanted to create exceptional technology and keep it simple. We knew if we built it better, proprietors will buy it. Quietly, Govoni, Drusiani, and Vaioli went to work as newly ordained entrepreneurs so often do, working days, nights, weekdays, and weekends to bring their scoring product to market. It took roughly six months to develop and install the first Qubica scoring system in Saint Etienne, Lyon, France. Conveniently, this center had the same scoring product that they helped developed for their previous employer, so, there was a level of trust between the proprietor and the Qubica team. A “very low” sales quote also helped the process along. Exciting as it must have been to close their first sale, it wasn’t long before the celebration stopped and the hard work began. From the very first night, the scoring system wouldn’t score properly. And, to make matters even worse, the computer mouse stopped working. From fairytale to horror story at the stroke of midnight. It took Vaioli, the partners’ true programming genius, only a day to find and fix the programming errors and to get the system running as intended. However, it took the team a full two weeks working 18-hour days to get the job completed. It was absolutely essential for the team to do whatever it took to make their first customer satisfied. According to the company, Qubica scored a slew of firsts in their quest to market: first to display video on the scoring system; first matrix camera to simplify setup and maximize pin detection accuracy; first touchscreen and mouse-driven front desk system; first digital game application (Qubicards) within the scoring system; first 3-D bowling graphics with sound; and first on-lane themed environments. In 1994, Qubica’s bright and successful future would be sealed by a fortuitous introduction and subsequent partnership with U.S. proprietor Pat Ciniello. Still the largest market on the QubicaAMF's Italian headquarters.
Part of the QubicaAMF Italian crew.
planet, the U.S. proprietors really needed a hometown hero with whom to fall in love. And fall in love they did! Ciniello was a well-respected bowling proprietor and also a reseller of various bowling products. He relied on his golden reputation as he hit the streets pitching Qubica scoring systems. By 1995, Qubica became a bowling-household name. It was Govoni, the partners’ marketing guru, who was able to mesmerize an otherwise staid and established bowling industry with an incredibly
smart and powerful marketing campaign. Govoni swarmed the bowling industry trade press with bold and beautiful advertising campaigns that sparked the imagination of the industry. It was his strategic marketing and unfettered creative skills that lifted the corporate and brand identity of Qubica from a new company to one that competes at the same level as its two major competitors and industry stalwart giants, AMF Bowling and Brunswick Bowling. As the world rang in the new millennium, Qubica had divisions in the U.S.A., Asia and Australia. More than 14,000 lanes in 25 countries were sporting Qubica’s scoring system. Its success begot success when Australian bowling proprietor and distributor Frank Mascadri became an essential partner within the Qubica Worldwide family. To date, all of the original Qubica partners and principals remain together. Trade advertising wasn’t the only type of marketing that helped Qubica become a well-known and trusted brand. Qubica was ever present at local, regional, national, and international trade shows. And, their participation was never less than “epic,” according to Govoni. At a time when trade show attendance was dropping and most exhibitors were cutting down on
Software command center and development office in Bologna.
their footprints, Qubica took a bold and counter-trend approach and massively grew their overall presence at events. Additionally, Qubica re-introduced the idea of bringing fullyfunctional products to the trade show floors. Attendees at Qubica booths were treated to some wonderfully inviting food and beverage hospitality while they were roaming Qubica’s elegantly-styled spaces. All of a sudden, every other manufacturer and supplier were doubling down on their trade show presence in order to keep up with the Qubica caliber flair. As Qubica injected much-needed commitment to Bowl Expo and other trade shows, it had a multiplier effect on the entire industry. Exhibitors, booth counts and sponsorship dollars grew. These financial resources were invested back into the shows to invite more compelling guest speakers and better social and networking events. Many industry sponsors and partners began to immediately reinvest. Much credit for the above success has been given to longtime Qubica creative director, Federica Gozza. Within the first decade, Qubica’s revenue grew to just under $30 million with 27,000 lanes installed. During the second decade, Qubica set off a wave of mergers and acquisitions that absolutely astonished the bowling industry. In 2002, Qubica acquired Mendes, a Canadian company that had brought their own major developments to the bowling trade: a unique magnetic automatic pinsetter that never really took off; a line of string machines; and maybe the first of the modern mini-lane systems. The wildly popular Highway66 branded mini bowling system captured the imagination and attention of the bowling and the family entertainment center businesses. Fast forward to 2005 when Qubica merged with AMF Bowling Products. It is at this point that the corporate structure of the newly-evolved QubicaAMF became a virtual bowl of spaghetti. There are many plot twists and 34
turns worthy of its own Federico Fellini movie script. So many, in fact, that it isn’t possible to detail them here in this story. It took almost 10 years for QubicaAMF to buy out the manufacturing division of AMF Bowling Corporation, AMF Bowling Products, and once again become a wholly owned company by the original founders. Bologna, Italy, remains home to the QubicaAMF headquarters. It is within their modern and sleek three-story office building where Luca Drusiani oversees the operations of QubicaAMF. With factories in the U.S.A. and distributors and sales forces set up across the globe, keeping operations humming is no small feat for Drusiani. QubicaAMF has offices in 12 countries with representatives in approximately 30 countries. QubicaAMF proudly boasts an employee roster of 580+ teammates and growing. This writer was recently given a personal tour of the QubicaAMF worldwide headquarters to get an up close and personal look at what it takes to keep an operation like QubicaAMF running. The impeccable building is carved into maze-like quarters for finance, accounting, technology, sales, marketing, research and development, and support services. There is an in-house manufacturing division that assembles and builds virtually every electronic component for their scoring systems. Within this building runs one of the most sophisticated business operations rivaling any high profile world-wide organization. However, for Govoni, it’s not what he has accomplished that makes him most proud. It’s not the incredible leadership and stewardship of his partners whom he cares for like family. What motivates and captures Govoni’s attention these days is Part of the QubicaAMF team in Richmond.
continued on page 38...
COVER STORY ...continued from page 34
what is being born from the lower level of his Bologna offices. Within the relative privacy of the basement level lies a product that has taken a significant bite out of the QubicaAMF R&D budget. According to QubicaAMF co-founder and chief product architect Roberto Vaioli, the company has invested more than $30 million in developing and improving their product line. And, in 2017, the company accelerated the pace of R&D investment by an additional 45% over the three years prior. Just as inspired today as he was at the young age of 23, Govoni has been focusing much of his time these past three years to the launch of QubicaAMF’s breakthrough product, HyperBowling. He describes his work as passionate, but those who know Govoni might be more apt to call him obsessive. HyperBowling is not just a new product to Govoni, a dreamer of dreams. This new concept has the potential to bring in the “other 94%” of the worldwide population who never bowls. Describing HyperBowling in words can be a challenge. Imagine the love child between the best pinball has to offer with the game of bowling. Mix in seemingly endless permutations of challenges for guests of all ages and abilities and this begins to paint the picture. Govoni wants to shake up the way bowlers play the game of bowling just as Topgolf has done for the sport of golf. HyperBowling will debut next month at Bowl Expo, and the entire QubicaAMF team would like to invite attendees to drop by their booth for some playtime and traditional QubicaAMF charm and hospitality. According to several insiders at the company, HyperBowling is probably the most complicated and challenging launch in the company’s quarter century history. But to Govoni, the true beauty of a product is not the product itself as much as the process of making a complicated product elegantly simple. In other words, in order to make a truly
Luca, Manu and Roberto in the very early days of Qubica.
wonderful product, it has to be beautiful inside and out. It is exactly at this juncture when Roberto Vaioli taps into his savant skillset. Vaioli takes great care making certain that every circuit board, every solder joint, wire, and cable are exactly where they should be. There is a sort of Zen-like reverence in the way Vaioli works on his drawings and designs. Creative concepts and drawings aren’t worth the price of the paper they’re written on unless someone can transform those concepts and drawings into a product that customers can buy and use. To this writer, spending time with Luca Drusiani, wending his way through his world, felt like accompanying Willy Wonka on a tour of his chocolate factory. Drusiani’s “factory” spans the world over every time zone, and in dozens of languages. From software development, electronic and digital security, inventory management, and logistics and governmental regulations, Drusiani, with his team, is constantly dealing with dynamically changing environments. This man still walks and talks with the same excitement and energy he had 25 years ago. Inspirationally, all six of the QubicaAMF founders, owners, and board members continue to maintain their boyish charms. The company’s exponential growth and business success haven’t seemed to change the essence of their character. Quite the contrary. Like a fine, vintage Italian wine, these gentlemen have aged and deepened as has the company they’ve worked so hard building. Success has matured and bloomed into an extraordinary product, indeed. ❖
Scott Frager has been the publisher of IBI magazine for the past 22 years. He has worked extensively in the bowling industry; as the executive director of the Bowling Centers of Southern California; as the general manager of a center in Southern California; and with Kids Bowl Free. He currently resides in Leawood, Kansas, with his wife and three children.
Manu and Pat back in the early days of QubicaAMF. 38
Brand New After Seven Decades
Amarillo’s Western Bowl is still going strong By Jim Goodwin hen Marty Fenberg and his father Sam opened Western Bowl in Amarillo, TX, in 1955, the world and the bowling industry were very different places. But one thing has not changed – bowling was a great business then, and it still is today. In fact, it is such a great business that the now 82-year-old Fenberg is still at it and still enjoying it every day. He is also wise enough to know that all businesses have to do whatever they can to keep up with the times. “I still come into the center almost every day,” said Fenberg. “Our employees and customers are like family, and I cannot imagine a better business to be in.” Keeping up with the competition makes Western Bowl remain as vital today as any business in the market. The most recent investment was a $1.1 million renovation of the center, completed in 2017. It is the biggest investment Fenberg has made since 1993 when 24 lanes were added to the original 36 to make it a thriving 60-lane establishment. The 65,000-squarefoot building sits on 5.5 acres. This time, to keep up with the trend of new FECs, Western Bowl took out eight lanes and converted that 5,000-square-foot space into a state-of-the-art laser tag arena with a beautiful western motif to reflect the nearby Palo Dura Canyon area where West Texas
Photos courtesy of Jimmie Green at Golden Eagle Photography
A&M University is located. After looking at several existing laser tag set-ups, Fenberg and general manager Randy Webb contacted Creative Works vice president of marketing Danny
Western Bowl owner Marty Fenberg (left) with his long-time general manager Randy Webb in front of the Western-themed mural inside the center.
FEATURE Gruening and experience consultant Nick Salfity. “It was an absolute pleasure working with the folks at Western Bowl,” said Salfity. “From the moment we met them, they were ready to dive in and make this project happen. They didn’t just want a laser tag arena; they wanted the best laser tag arena. Randy Webb and his team understood the value of delivering the WOW factor to amaze customers. We worked with them to develop a custom western theme to match the ambiance of the environment around Amarillo. The end result was fantastic, and we look forward to celebrating their continued success.” All of the laser tag equipment is provided by Laser Force, and the new arena can handle up to 30 people at a time. Fenberg really did his homework on the project. Last year, he and Susan made a vacation/business trip to China where most of the equipment is manufactured. At the opposite end of the center, lanes 55-60 were walled off and upgraded to become a VIP lounge to accommodate private and corporate party business. Not forgetting their 1,000+ league bowlers and casual bowlers alike, they also installed the newest Brunswick Sync Scoring and Management System across the house, plus all new carpet. They renovated the outside of the building to make it more attractive to passing traffic on Canyon Drive in 2016. Part of what prompted the 2017 renovation was the announcement that Cinergy Cinemas and Entertainment will open a new, 95,000-square-foot entertainment complex about four miles from Western Bowl. IBI has confirmed with Cinergy CEO Jeff Benson that their new center will open in the fall of 2018. “I think we would have done most of this regardless, but the Cinergy project prompted us to do it sooner rather than later,” said Fenberg. After talking with Cinergy’s Neil Hupfauer, Fenberg believes that a little competition may even help his business. Moviebowls like Cinergy are already known to create new bowlers because the movie industry does marketing to the tune of billions of dollars to movie lovers of all ages, and it stands to reason that some of those new bowlers might drift over to Western Bowl, especially if the two centers remain friendly competitors. Fenberg also is confident that his Western Bowl will continue to do well because they provide excellent customer service from loyal and long-time employees. That starts with general manager Randy Webb, who is celebrating his 40th year with Western Bowl in 2018, with most of those years as manager. “Randy and his staff are terrific,” said Fenberg. “We have worked together so long that we are more like family than co-workers. We also have many customers that we feel the same way about. We have families that have had four or five generations bowling with us.” From 1983-1989, Fenberg leased the center to Brunswick and spent most of those years traveling in
a motor home with his wife Susan, but his employees stayed on and got the benefit of all of the training that the Brunswick BRC group provided. “It was a great relationship we had, but after about five years, I was ready to get back to the business, so I chose not to exercise my options to renew the lease. The deal with BRC started well and ended well for all involved.” “I have probably stayed at Western Bowl so long because Marty has let me run the center for the most part,” said Webb. “He comes in every morning and spends about an hour or two with me, and we talk about what has happened and what’s going to happen. We have a very good relationship. In the BRC days there were a lot of deadlines and a little more pressure. It is much better working directly with Marty.” Other long term employees include head mechanic Lynn Crabtree, who now has 43 years on the job; mechanic Richard Smyrl with 41 years; bartender Cherral Mills with 32 years; night manager Curtis Parker with more than 20 years; and Mary Ingram at the customer service with more than 20 years.
Too Many Lanes? Try Laser Tag! Several years ago, Fenberg sold some lanes from another center that he closed to Neil Hupfauer, who was busy building FECs, and one thing that Hupfauer told him was that he thought Fenberg had too many lanes. Because late leagues and league bowling in general were declining, Fenberg knew Hupfauer was right, but the time was not right to downsize then.
Today, proprietors like Fenberg know that the time is right to re-purpose that valuable space that was once needed for league bowling; thus, the trend that almost all new centers being built in recent years are the FEC variety with fewer bowling lanes. Existing large centers everywhere are reducing their lane beds to put in other activities.
restaurant and three bars in the center. Western Bowl’s restaurant, Grills Gone Wild, has been leased out for several years. It backs up to the VIP lounge on the high side of the center, which makes catering to private and corporate parties very convenient. The restaurant has also upgraded several of their menu items for the VIP parties. With all of the work completed, Fenberg called on Ken Mischel and Associates for an appraisal to establish a new value for the modernized center. The Fenbergs have two married daughters, Barbi Horwitz and Cheri Frame, not currently involved in the business but who live in the Houston area.
VIPs on the High Side Originally, laser tag was the only major item in the plan for Western Bowl, but when Fenberg and Webb visited some of the new places being built, plans changed. “We went to see the Heyday Entertainment Center while we were in Oklahoma for a seminar,” said Webb, “And Marty fell in love with their VIP lounge. The one at Pinstack was also impressive.” “Our new VIP lounge is really super nice,” said Fenberg. “Fancy furniture and all of the extras. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would spend what we did on only six lanes, but it is beautiful.” Webb hired four additional high school age employees to work in the new
Webb said he was excited to see how the new amenities do during spring break and into the summer months. There is nothing like something new to energize the bowling center that has been an important part of the Amarillo community for almost seven decades. ❖
Equipment at Western Bowl: r Six lane VIP area r Frameworx hood and rack r Lightworx pin deck lighting r Video masking units r Pin Ball Wizard gutter system r Brunswick Sync Scoring and Management System
laser tag arena and help with parties. Marketing and advertising the new amenities has been a priority. “At first, we tried social media, and it was a little slow,” said Webb. “One day it hit me that local television advertising has always worked in our market, so we put together commercials for the laser tag and VIP lounge on two of the major local channels, and by December, we were getting 200 kids every Friday and Saturday for laser tag, and our VIP lounge was booked every Thursday through Sunday.” It has stayed pretty busy since, and revenue has also increased in the 42
r Center Stage furniture
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.
According to George s we enjoy spring and look ahead to summer, what I call the Education Season is in the rearview mirror (with one exception which I’ll get to in a minute). As I attended conferences such as the BPAA Western Summit, the F2FEC conference, and Brunswick Showcases for traditional modernizations and new starts, one theme came through: bowling, arcade, and family entertainment attractions continue to come to market in all shapes and sizes. As we go through our active client list for projects under development, all of them have bowling as part of the mix. There are a few new, ground-up BECs, along with several Modernization 1s (our designation for traditional centers who upgrade their center while adding arcade plus other attractions, usually laser tag). Modernization 2s (our designation for added or upgraded arcades) round out the list. Mod 2s are smaller and the volume level is well below 1s, but they are still a profitable enterprise. Inside Beyond Bowling this month, you’ll get to read about two entrepreneurs who know a little about thinking big. Owner Robert Walker entered his project thinking about adding a restaurant and instead developed Apex Entertainment, possibly the largest family entertainment business in the state of Massachusetts. Robert Sax gives us a tour in his feature article. And Justin Ripp of Shenaniganz in Rockwall, TX, is our Interesting Interview subject this month. He and his brothers were pioneers in developing Shenaniganz, one of the first BECs back in 2008. They now own a second center and are developing standalone escape rooms and trampoline parks. The exception to the winding down of the education season is Bowl Expo, scheduled for June 17-21 in Las Vegas. My partner and son, Howard, and I are privileged to be leading two seminars focused on best practices for operating a BEC. We’ll also be examining the early results on the virtual reality landscape with real data and guest appearances by current operators. Howard’s Bowl Expo preview article in these pages provides more detail on what you can expect at the show. Enjoy!
George McAuliffe Principal, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
From David’s Desk t’s that time of the year again, where organized league play is finishing up, and proprietors swing into the summer season of bowling, Bowl Expo, and maybe a center refresh. The summer is the prime time for new bowlers to come in your doors, namely, moms and kids looking for something fun to do. Nothing helps you do this better than the Kids Bowl Free program. Check it out! Bowl Expo is another exciting summer event, as thousands of proprietors descend on Las Vegas, June 18-21. Bowl Expo has great educational opportunities as well as the latest and greatest products to help you make more money in your BEC/FEC. As we all know, the summer goes by quickly so make your plans now to refresh your center. New carpet, a paint job, new arcade games, or work on training programs with your staff. A little bit of TLC will go a long way with your customers. Have a great summer and enjoy Beyond Bowling this month featuring articles from George and Howard McAuliffe and Robert Sax.
David Garber Associate Publisher International Bowling Industry
TRADE SHOW PREVIEW
The Power of Partnership Growing your business starts at Bowl Expo By Howard McAuliffe
owl Expo is one of the more exciting shows of the year. As I was reviewing the exhibitor list, I was surprised at first to see that so many of the exhibitors were not related to traditional bowling. However, in a world where BEC and boutique centers are growing in both number and revenues, this really is a natural evolution of the show. The Bowl Expo website provides a great list of ideas for newcomers if you are new to the show, as well as details about all of the keynote speakers and education sessions. Deciding your schedule before the show will be useful to maximize your time. Having particular education sessions and exhibitors planned in advance will ensure you see everyone you intend. It is very easy to get sidetracked with all the great activities and conversations that occur at the show.
Exhibitor Preview Here are a few exhibitors we recommend for this years Expo. The companies below will be at the show and will have exciting new products and services to see.
PINNACLE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, Booth 663 www.grouppinnacle.com www.thepinnacleinsider.com
We will be exhibiting our consulting services, which have helped nearly 200 bowling centers to add game rooms and/or attractions, convert to a or help build a BEC from the ground up. In addition, we have launched The Pinnacle Insider, which will serve as a corporate headquarters for independent locations and small chains. There are lots of advantages to NOT being a corporation. However, large corporations do have some advantages that are too expensive to replicate for small chains or independents. The goal of The Pinnacle Insider is to provide the advantages of being a chain that are cost prohibitive including: centralized data management, marketing headquarters, as well as 50
sharing best practices from individual locations that can be implemented across the chain. Come see our new site, and learn about the program.
FETCHREV, Booth 241 FetchRev.com/Bowling
Are you ready to grow your bowling center? We believe in the Fetchrev service for bowling centers. FetchRev drives more revenue, increases open bowling, and books more birthday parties. Stop by Booth #241 to learn how they will help get your customers in the door and spending by sending the right message at the right time to the right customer.
LAI GAMES, Booth 409
Virtual Reality is one of the hottest new additions in our industry. LAI Games will have on display its award-winning Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride, the industry’s first attendant-free Virtual Reality ride that is operated and serviced like a traditional coin-op game. The game boasts content created by AAA game developer Ubisoft and features their global powerhouse Rabbids brand. Riders can choose from three unique experiences for an all-ages VR attraction that lives up to the hype! Offering 360˚ views with action in every direction, riders are immersed in a unique experience every time. Premium components include HTC Vive headsets, a D-BOX motion platform, dynamic wind simulation and hi-fi audio. Each seat is monetized for maximum revenue potential, and the audience-facing design lets others see the hilarious reactions of the riders, generating higher utilization. Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride was honored with the AMOA’s Innovator Award for 2018.
EMBED, Booth 423
Embed will showcase its award-winning smartTouch family of readers, the emONE self-contained, self-installed kiosk, plus its TOOLKIT suite of applications with a new addition called BOOKINGS – a modern online booking solution that allows guests
TRADE SHOW PREVIEW to book parties or events at entertainment venues. The company will also show its range of affordable contactless media and brandnew touchscreen reader features, including the ability for guests to check card balances at any game and to dispense more tokens while playing token games. Embed will also have members of its training team on-site to answer questions about their premium on-demand learning center, INSIGHT.
REDEMPTION PLUS, Booth 643
At this year’s Bowl Expo, Redemption Plus will be talking about their refreshed service model and customer incentive programs. Both are designed to empower customers to “choose their own adventure” with Redemption Plus. Included in the service model is the custom design for redemptions and game rooms, as well as updated merchandising services that go beyond what they’ve been able to offer previously.
BRUNSWICK BOWLING, Booth 750 www.brunswickbowling.com
Create a VIP experience for guests with the beautiful, highbacked booth seating of Brunswick’s Center Stage furniture line. This modular soft-seating is ideal for restaurants, bars, or bowlers’ areas to provide intimate social spaces that give guests privacy and sound buffering so they can enjoy the company of their family and friends. Designed for configuration flexibility, these booths can be easily mixed and matched with other soft seating from the Center Stage line to create the perfect arrangement for your center—all with the customization options proprietors have come to know and love. To learn more about your opportunities with furniture, please visit BrunswickBowling.com.
CREATIVE WORKS, Booth 653
If you are considering adding entertainment attractions like laser tag, escape rooms, mini-golf, and/or virtual reality, then Creative Works is a must visit during the show. They will showcase their EPIC Laser Tag Arenas, Infinite Escapes, Cosmic Golf, and custom theming. They’ll be showcasing the hottest VR attraction on the market, Hologate. Both booths are “must see” when it comes to diversifying your attractions portfolio. Creative Works creates memorable experiences for guests through social, immersive, story-driven attractions. Their factory is full of mad scientists, working hard to bring their clients’ projects to life.
LIVE OAK BANK, Booth 455
liveoakbank.com/bowling-center-loans Live Oak is a leading lender in the bowling and amusement industries, a bank that understands this business, which eliminates
a major hurdle for many traditional borrowers. As the owner of a bowling center, you have the special challenge of keeping a classic game fresh and fun. Sometimes that means buying new equipment or remodeling your space. Live Oak understands the factors specific to the bowling industry as well as the financing needs. With a team of Entertainment Center experts and lending specialists, they are uniquely positioned to help you reach new growth. From bowling centers to arcades, Live Oak provides financing for expansion, modernization, construction, acquisition, working capital, equipment, and refinancing up to $5 million. Their expedited and transparent process is simple and gets the funds to you fast, so you can get back to work.
INTERCARD, Booth 539 www.intercardinc.com For over 30 years Intercard has been providing customized, one-of-a-kind debit card systems with state-of-the-art software that supports any size facility from one location to one hundred locations. Intercard can increase your revenues by up to 30% by enhancing your customers on-site experience, increasing the flow of customers to your location all while providing operators detailed reports. At this year’s Bowl Expo, Intercard will be featuring Shindigger, which is the most affordable, mobile-friendly party software available. It makes it easy for customers to book parties on a mobile device, which is essential if you want to win their business. A monthly subscription costs much less than competing systems, making it the ultimate party and reservation system. In five easy steps your customers can plan their next shindig. Get your share of the mobile market. Stop by our booth for a demo or request a demo at shindigger.com or (800) 732-3770.
(AAMA Pavilion) benchmarkgames.com
Benchmark Games will be featuring two games this year at Amusement Expo. Fireball is Benchmark’s new redemption game. Fireball is a reimagined version of a previous Benchmark ball-drop concept with fiery neon graphics, eye-catching black light effects, and a new skill stop feature. This feature allows players to stop the rotating wheel and time the ball drop (or vice versa!) to earn displayed ticket values or win the bonus. Gold is coming soon. This game takes the profitability of the ball-drop model and adds it to a merchandiser where players light up the letters G-O-L-D to win a prize. Gold is appealing to both the street and FEC operator, is 100 percent skill-based, and features five major prize tree spindles with a side door for easy loading.
TRADE SHOW PREVIEW
BAY TEK GAMES, Booth 874 www.baytekgames.com
Crash, Boom, Wham! Being a daredevil can be a painful job! Detonate the TNT plunger to launch Cannonball Carl into a 3D cityscape. Aim for the tops of buildings to score big and watch Carl boogie down in a lively bonus celebration! Miss and Carl will hilariously crash into a number of cringe-worthy, interactive obstacles. Can losing be as much fun as winning? It just might be with Cannonball Carl!
With its novelty light up cannon thatâ€™s synchronized to game play and a plunger handle that simulates a TNT box, Cannonball Carl will excite daredevils of all ages. Its smaller footprint and addressable motion LEDs will draw a crowd in any size game room. Listen for the comedic sounds as Cannonball Carl crashes and booms his way through this virtual city and keep an eye out for spoofs on classic Bay Tek titles.
Seminars Education is one of the most valuable opportunities at Bowl Expo. Several seminars, including two on game rooms/arcades that we are presenting, are listed below: F&B 101: 51 Ways to Improve Food and Beverage Operations Presented By: Mike Holtzman Redemption & Games 101: Understanding Sales and Profits in a Bowling Entertainment Center Game Room Presented By: George and Howard McAuliffe Redemption & Games-201: The
Bowling Entertainment Center Game Room 201- Advanced Concepts in Driving Revenues Presented By: George McAuliffe & Howard McAuliffe Attractions: Laser Tag â€” 201 Presented By: Erik Guthrie Attractions: Learn What You Need to Know About Escape Rooms! Presented By: James Niehoff & Casey Keene
Howard McAuliffe is vice president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Pinnacle Entertainment Group has conceived, developed, and operated family entertainment businesses in every size and budget, and integrated in to many other business as both corporate executives and entrepreneurs. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Reaching New Heights Apex Entertainment brings fun (and lunch) to Marlborough’s tech mecca.
By Robert Sax
arlborough, Massachusetts needed a proper place for business lunches. So Mayor Arthur Vigeant approached local real estate developer Robert Walker, a co-founder of the popular 110 Grill restaurant chain, about opening a location in this fastevolving technology center an hour west of Boston. In the process the mayor got his restaurant and Walker got into the FEC business. Marlborough, established in 1660, was for generations a center of shoe manufacturing and a prosperous industrial town. In the late 20th century, the city’s economic base shifted to technology, including many companies with ties to Boston’s technology hub. Among the tech giants with offices in Marlborough are GE Healthcare Life Sciences, TJX Cos, Raytheon, Hewlett-Packard, AMD, Boston Scientific, and AT&T. With the area booming, Walker saw the potential to create much more than a restaurant. He proposed what has become the Apex Center of New England, a $160 million complex of hotels, restaurants, offices, and attractions. “The center will serve the residents of the MetroWest community and beyond, as well as the millions of annual visitors to nearby sporting facilities,” Walker told the
Worcester Business Journal. “The Apex Entertainment Center aims to be the go-to destination for families, teens, and adults.” At over 80,000 square feet, Apex Entertainment is the amusement anchor for the Apex Center and may be the largest FEC in New England. It opened for business in December 2017 and boasts a long list of popular attractions including bowling, a multilevel indoor go-kart track, laser tag, ropes course, arcade with more than 65 games and redemption, bumper cars, and golf and sports simulators. It is complemented by other attractions in the
Apex’s general manager Marcus Kemblowski.
FEATURE surrounding complex that include escape rooms, a free-roam VR center, trampoline park, and even an axe-throwing emporium, which, combined, create an irresistible draw for fun-seekers.
BUILD AROUND BOWLING The overall concept called for more than just a few lanes of bowling. As a model for Apex Entertainment’s bowling component, Walker was impressed with Wamesit Lanes in Tewksbury north of Boston. Coowner Donny MacLaren shared his expertise with Walker and referred him to Brunswick Bowling Products, who had set up Wamesit’s lanes. Eric Lindfors, Brunswick’s director of new business development, says the project took just twelve months to complete instead of the typical 18-24 months for a new center because Walker brought them in early. The Brunswick team has a lot of experience with preplanning and logistics in new centers, which meant they could work effectively with the Apex team even though Apex had not previously incorporated a bowling center into a development. “What was wonderful with the Apex project is that their investment team had a vision for not just the center, but for the entire development,” says Lindfors. “That allowed us to start the project, evaluating the size and scope to ensure our clients were making a sound investment.” Apex customers have a choice of 24 ten-pin lanes and six candlepin lanes, a hybrid arrangement that accommodates New Englanders who want to bowl a “string” or two of their regional game. “This center is only the second new facility in decades to include ten pin and candlepin,” says Lindfors (the other is Wamesit Lanes.) The lanes feature all the modern amenities, including comfortable custom seating, highend video and music systems, and lane-side food and beverage service. Those desiring a private bowling experience can book one of eight lanes in the exclusive VIP bowling room. The Boston-themed, two-level laser tag arena is another highlight, with theming designed by Creative Works. Several Boston landmarks are Eric Lindfors, Brunswick’s director of incorporated into the custom new business development theming, including bases designed like the cars on the Green Line subway. The John Hancock/Prudential Tower is a 16-foot-tall prop in the arena center with special lighting effects so it can change colors. And of course, Fenway Park’s iconic green garage doors are a prominent part of the mural work. “The clients loved the idea of 58
creating a one-of-a-kind look that paid tribute to the local heritage and landmarks,” says Russ Van Natta of Creative Works. “Apex’s team gave us great insight on what elements they wanted to include.” Special effects programming is tied into all the major pieces, along with targets from equipment vendor Zone’s Helios Pro system. The arena is interactive, and players can play against the arena itself. Creative Works also designed the arena for maximum visibility to the rest of the center. “That way as guests are enjoying the high ropes course, or other attractions, they have something calling them to play,” says Van Natta. “Not to mention that it provides a pretty cool Instagrammable moment for the guests.”
HIRE A REAL KNUCKLEHEAD For his general manager, Walker recruited an FEC veteran, Marcus Kemblowski, from the renowned Knuckleheads in Wisconsin. Kemblowski had owned a couple of bowling pro shops , had a PBA card, and used to bowl competitively. “The last year I bowled, I averaged 233,” he recalls. But he hadn’t contemplated a career in family entertainment until Knuckleheads co-owner Andy Waterman talked him into leaving his managerial position
FEATURE action. The tavern offers a menu created by Walker’s 110 Grill team that features popular items like gourmet pizzas, wraps, and burgers plus desserts and a choice of 16 draft beers. There are billiard tables and sports on 30 screens, so even here there’s lots of action to enjoy. Business has been good since the center’s opening. Even without the loyalty and reward programs that will launch later this year, customers are enjoying Apex and coming back for more. “We have repeat business,” Kemblowski says, “I see a lot of the same faces here multiple times throughout the week.” Business, drinks, and bowling? Lunch and laser tag? If you find yourself in Marlborough, there’s now a great place to go for work and play. ❖ at the local Home Depot. It turned out to be a great fit for Kemblowski, who fell in love with the industry and was the general manager of Knuckleheads for five years. Apex was another great fit, and Kemblowski was willing to relocate because the new FEC offered everything he liked about Knuckleheads and more. “I see other FECs and they kind of isolate themselves to one age group... just doing kind of a bowling night club thing.” he says. “That’s not fun for everyone, so again, we have that as one area of the building, but then [we] have stuff like the arcade, and the golf simulators, and a ropes-course, and bumper cars. [This] really allows you to take a family and experience something as a family because there is stuff for everyone.” Apex has been well-received, especially because the FEC and the development offer much that wasn’t readily available to locals before. “To even find something comparable, you’re looking at an hour drive up to the Boston area. There’s really nothing in this community that was filling that void,” says Kemblowski.
THE FOOD PART WAS ALREADY BAKED-IN Trying to open a full-on FEC and offer really good food as well would be a big challenge for most newcomers. But with Walker’s restaurant experience, setting up a first-class food and beverage operation was no mystery. Kemblowski was also able to help with developing the center’s Pit Stop Tavern, although he leaves the running of it to his food and beverage manager. “I was a part owner of a restaurant in the Chicagoland area for a number of years,” he says. “With the 110 Grill people and my background, we kind of mirrored the procedures and the menu items from what 110 Grill offers to what we do here.” Hungry bowlers can eat and drink at the lanes, and customers who aren’t bowling can have a full-service, casual dining experience at the Pit Stop Tavern. It’s located upstairs and overlooks the go-kart track so diners can take in the 60
BOWLING EQUIPMENT LIST n Sync Scoring and Management System n Center Stage seating with custom sofa tables and ottomans on post row breaks n GS-X Pinsetters n 8 lanes of Anvilane ColorFull Lanes in Gunstock Savoy n 22 lanes of Prolane n Lightworx Pin Deck Lighting n Envoy Lane Machine
Robert Sax is a writer and PR consultant in Los Angeles. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, the home of five-pin bowling.
INTERESTING INTERVIEW Justin Ripp, co-owner of Shenaniganz in Rockwall, TX.
Getting Ripp-ed A few minutes with Justin Ripp, expert and owner of TopFEC, Inc. (Shenaniganz) in Rockwall, TX.
Photo credit: Danny Hollenback
By George McAuliffe Shenaniganz is one of the country’s finest BECs. Opened in December, 2008, it was a pioneer of the concept. Today, the Ripp family is expanding into escape rooms and trampoline parks throughout Texas. We spent a few minutes catching up with Justin. 1. Share with us the Shenaniganz story. How did you get into the bowling entertainment business? We’re a family business. I’m one of six siblings, and, with our mom and dad, we did everything as a family unit. This often meant entertainment activities. That, combined with our parent’s advice to be your own boss, meant that we started looking for a family business. Then I saw the movie The Big Lebowski and inspiration hit. We started to investigate bowling and called Brunswick. They played a big role in helping us understand the 62
bowling business and where it was going. A local newspaper ran a poll asking the market what it wanted by way of entertainment and the number one response was bowling. Then, our still-dry county went wet (permitted public alcoholic beverage sales). When we found the right real estate deal it all came together. My brothers Parker Coddington, Keegan Ripp, and I manage the business. Our other three siblings kept their day jobs — two are doctors and one is a manager at Nordstorm. In 2013 we purchased a 25,000-square-foot traditional center in Greenville, TX. We added a full arcade with 22 pieces [games] as well as laser tag, a restaurant, and a bar. We are now in the process of expanding with escape rooms and three trampoline parks in development. 2. That’s a productive ten years. Any surprises along the way? We opened Shenaniganz in Rockwall 12 days after the stock market hit its low in 2008. So, we had to navigate the uncertainty of those times while going through the learning curve. 3. Give us your top three favorite things and your least three favorite about the business. Well, our core job is help people have fun. That’s a great place to be in life. Next would be working with our management team. We’ve got some great
INTERESTING INTERVIEW people. Many started with us as hourly staff and have risen to where they have a lot of responsibility and a well-paying job with benefits. Third is the fact that I’m my own boss. I can wear flip flops to work every day. On the not so fun side? Family dynamics is a mixed bag. While working with my brothers is great, there are times when it has its challenges. Sometimes I’d rather just be talking about football rather than debating a decision. Second, there’s a lot of responsibility. I don’t like firing people, for example, but sometimes it has to be done for the good of everyone involved. Third is probably the stress level. It’s a lot of work to manage all the details of a bowling entertainment center on our scale, with a lot of risk on the table. 4. How about challenges? What does our industry need that it doesn’t have? We are always trying to innovate and add new things to the mix that guests might not even know they like or need. That’s risky, and we’ve had some fails. For example, we removed a very solid mini-golf course for a new attraction that turned out to do much less. Fortunately, we’ve had some great moves like escape rooms. Sometimes your investments have two or three month returns and sometimes its two or three years. 5. You are developing concepts in several other businesses. From a business fundamentals standpoint, take us down your decision-making path. How do you decide on final concept and location? You’ve got to believe in the product and location. We do our homework and study successful models and understand why they’re successful. Good location plus good product is a recipe for success. 6. Can you boil it down to the top three factors for your company’s success? 1. We have three brothers to look at things from three different viewpoints. When we achieve consensus, we’ve done a pretty thorough analysis. 2. We have and share core values. We try to infuse them throughout the business and let them guide our decisions. 3. Our location. We were first in the market in a good location with a good product. 7. Rank your top three components of the BEC and tell us a little about why you like them. 1. Arcade. I like it the most because it’s the highest revenue with good margins, and we can grow it and see direct results. 2. Food and beverage. It is the extra, incremental sales adding to the bottom line. It gives people a reason to stay longer.
3. Bowling. It’s our main attraction, and it’s why we’re here. It’s the main draw. Because of fixed capacity, the bowling revenue might be in third place, but it’s driving guest visits – and the margins aren’t too bad. 8. Is there a particular process that you follow in evaluating components? Yes, we put a lot of time into studying and learning. I’m a member of the Brunswick FEC group, which meets several times a year to trade information. There are a lot of resources out there, so we do a lot of reading magazines and paying attention to what’s going on in the FEC world. We are looking at virtual reality right now and getting ready to start adding to Shenaniganz and the trampoline parks. We like Creative Work’s Hologate. 9. How do you handle the adult versus family customer segments? Does your approach vary by location? Our philosophy is that if we make everything nice enough for an adult, the families will be happy, too. Kids are easy, they just want to have fun. When you design for your toughest customers - the soccer mom - everyone else will be happy no matter what. We also segment and have adults-only spaces. 10. Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers? Quality paid management is worth the decrease in stress. We did everything in the early days. We opened, closed, ordered all the products, handled all the staff issues. We now have 14 key managers across our businesses. Promoting from within allows people to have a path for success and a stake in the business. It also makes for a better night’s sleep. Also, reinvest in your business. Just because you have a good model today doesn’t mean it will stay that way. ❖ Thanks, Justin, it’s great to get your perspective and watch your success.
George McAuliffe has operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive and entrepreneur. As a consultant he has helped hundreds of clients add or improve redemption game rooms and FEC attractions. He is currently the principal of Pinnacle Entertainment Group whose clients include Embed, Redemption Plus and Shaffer Distributing Company. He writes for RePlay and International Bowling Industry magazines and speaks at FEC industry conferences.
ENTERTAINMENT AT ITS HIGHEST
Get your game face on! Brunswick Bowling’s Sync Scoring and Management System has integrated entertainment guests will love and efficient in-center management proprietors need. Expect eruptive laughter from bowlers playing pinpix, Sync’s newest game that capitalizes on the selfie-craze and uses facial recognition technology to create a rip-roaring good time with wacky filters and unexpected exciters to keep bowlers engaged. The system’s revolutionary marketing automation also allows centers to send guests’ scores right to their email. Every 33 seconds, a score is sent from the Brunswick Cloud, enticing guests with customized promotions to return to bowl another game. The Brunswick Cloud provides proprietors access to all their center information—operations and guest data—from one comprehensive dashboard, whether they have one center or twenty. Learn more about what Sync can do for your center and bowlers by visiting BrunswickBowling.com/Products/Sync.
SPINNING WITH SCOOBY-DOO
Come on and join the whole crime-solving gang with the newest game from Bay Tek; an animated wheel game, licensed by Warner Bros. Entertainment. Players step up, pull the handle, and watch the side rails light as the wheel spins. Where it skillfully stops determines how many tickets are rewarded. Both kids and adults will delight in the exceptional audio package and character graphics that come to life on the bright screen. Watch and listen to the whole gang to get the full experience of this beloved classic. For more information, visit baytekgames.com/scooby-doo.
HOT NEW GAME
GROW YOUR BUSINESS
QubicaAMF’s BES X, the world’s Bowler Entertainment System, is changing the bowler experience. Additionally, QubicaAMF has introduced the exclusive CenterPunch Deck Lighting and Conqueror QPad that integrate and enhance the experience BES X provides in your facility. With over 165 million games bowled in over 800 centers worldwide, BES X is the only system on the market today that is tested, trusted, and proven to drive real business results. Learn more at www.qubicaamf.com.
Fireball is Benchmark’s “hottest” new redemption game that has been shipping since February, and the units in production runs have been reserving quickly! Operators are drawn to its modern presentation and profitable quick play formula, plus players enjoy having more skillful control of the game play. Fireball is a reimagining of a previous Benchmark ball drop concept with fiery neon graphics, eye-catching black light effects, and a new skill stop feature. This allows players to stop the rotating wheel and time the ball drop, or vice versa, to earn displayed ticket values or win the bonus. It measures: 33” wide; 40” deep; 82” high. For more information, call (561) 253-3300 or go to www.Benchmarkgames.com.
MUST-HAVE TOOLS FOR BECS
Whether you are new to debit card systems or looking to upgrade your current Point of Sale or Redemption Management Solution, Embed’s range of products and services have been created with operators’ needs in mind. Powering the most advanced debit card readers on the market, TOOLKIT is a comprehensive suite that increases revenue and operating efficiency and reduces costs. Its simple and clean interface is intuitive and easy to master for you and your key team members. Embed’s smartTouch family of readers can take your business to a whole new level. All models support Playwave™ contactless and have recently gained new touchscreen functions, including the ability for guests to check balances on any reader. Learn more at www.embedcard.com.
STRATEGIC DESIGN WORKS!
Retailers apply elements of psychology to their store designs to entice customers to help drive specific consumer behavior. Why should redemption and game areas be any different? Do you have a design partner who considers these elements in an FEC environment, specifically? Redemption Plus does. So, whether you’re opening a new center, looking to remodel, or just want to optimize your current setup, Redemption Plus can help. However, it doesn’t stop there. A great design is nothing without a strategic product assortment. Redemption Plus’ Value Architects (account executives) will be at Bowl
BOWLING CENTER LOANS
As an owner of a bowling center, you have a special challenge of keeping a classic game fresh and fun. Sometimes that means buying new equipment or remodeling your space. Live Oak Bank’s team of entertainment center lending specialists is uniquely positioned to help you reach new growth. Live Oak Bank offers bowling center loans up to $5 million for modernization, expansion, refinance, and more. They’ve made the loan process transparent and will get the funds to you fast. Loans are also available for equipment, furniture upgrades, and other working capital needs. Contact Live Oak Bank to learn how they can help you achieve the bowling center of your dreams or visit them at IAAPA, booth #454. Liveoakbank.com/bowling-center-loans.
Expo to help you understand how design and product selection create an overall redemption experience. Stop by booth #643 to learn how your design and merchandising can set you apart from your competition.
Frank Buffa (left) with son Mark.
BRINGING OUT THE BEST Frank Buffa: Montreal’s other great coach. By Robert Sax
ontreal, Quebec, has produced its share of great athletic coaches. Certainly, the most revered is hockey coach Scotty Bowman, who won five Stanley Cups with the legendary Montreal Canadiens and four with other NHL teams. But Montreal has also produced Frank Buffa, an internationally-known bowling coach who has trained many top bowlers and lead the national teams of several countries to success. What’s more, he has done it all while building his bowling products company, Buffa Distribution, into the largest in Canada. A retired physics professor who speaks seven languages, Buffa was born in Italy in 1948 and moved with his family in 1959 to Montreal, then Canada’s largest city. “In Italy we played a sport called bocce. When I came to Canada, I found there was a sport called bowling,” Buffa told Bowling This Month
magazine in 1996. At St. Pius X Catholic High School, he was introduced to duckpin bowling, which was predominant in Quebec, and joined the bowling team. Buffa played against other high schools and did so well that he was later recruited for a special tenpin tournament. “I never went back to small pins,” says Buffa. “I stayed with the big tenpins.” He also won tournaments sponsored by a local newspaper, the Montreal Gazette. But after high school, Buffa went on to university rather than risk trying to make a living as a pro bowler. He graduated McGill University with a master’s degree in physics and went on to teach the subject at a local college for twenty years. Buffa also continued to develop as a bowler and had a strong desire to become more knowledgeable in the finer points of the game. One of the things that frustrated him about bowling then
PROFILE was the difficulty of getting a ball drilled to his requirements. He couldn’t get a comfortable fit and was tired of getting bloody thumbs. “I just wanted someone to drill me a ball properly,” Buffa says, “but there were no experts back then.” In 1980, he traveled to Rochester, NY, to meet Ray DiSanto Sr., co-designer of the Ovalmatic ball drilling jig. He took a drilling course with DiSanto, brought an Ovalmatic back to Montreal, and set up a pro shop in his garage. The word got around quickly and “it was unbelievable the number of people coming to see me for drilling bowling balls,” says Buffa. He took a sabbatical from teaching to see if he could make a living from his pro shop and “never looked back after that.” In 1986 Buffa went to Las Vegas for Don Johnson’s bowling school and took a course on drilling bowling balls that was taught by a fellow physicist. The two men got along well, and Buffa really delved into the science of ball drilling. Two years later, Columbia introduced its innovative Vector One and Vector Two balls. These represented a radical departure in ball design because of the unusual placement and shape of the weight block that offered advantages to the skilled bowler. But the design was a challenge for pro shops as it required the ball to be dynamically balanced if it was to roll properly. “Nobody knew how to drill a dynamically-balanced ball,” recalls Buffa, “and Columbia couldn’t sell them.” Pairing his knowledge of physics and bowling, Buffa
developed a dynamic balanced drilling program for a small computer that Columbia sold to pro shops. It calculated where to put the balance hole when the technician entered the positive axis point, simplifying the process and enabling bowlers to enjoy the benefits of the new balls. In 1990 Buffa expanded his business, opening Boutique de Quilles Buffa (Buffa Bowling Shop) at Centre de Quilles 440 in suburban Laval. It was Quebec’s first pro shop in a bowling center. His drilling customers began asking him to supply them with bowling balls, so he started distributing Columbia balls at his shop, as well as at other bowling centers in Quebec. The business grew steadily and by 1995 Buffa was operating a bowling equipment distribution center of 20,000 square feet. In 2005, Buffa Distribution became an official reseller and installer of QubicaAMF capital equipment products, allowing it to meet the growing demand for modernization of bowling centers in Canada. In 2012, Buffa Distribution acquired its main competitor, Maurice Boyer Pro Shop, and, in 2015, purchased Bowling Sales of Canada after the death of its founder Jack Fine. Today, Buffa is the leading distributor of bowling products in Canada and distributes to a dozen other countries. An active participant in many bowling industry activities, Buffa Distribution is a supplier to and sponsor of the Canadian Tenpin Federation’s Canadian Team Trials and the Quebec Provincial Junior Championships. The company is an active member of BBIA, IBPSIA, USBC, Bowl Canada, CTF, and FQQ. Paul Oliveira, executive director of Bowl Canada, praises Frank and his son and business partner Mark for supporting initiatives to help grow the Canadian bowling industry. “Frank and Mark have generously played a role in providing Bowl Canada with access to the Quebec proprietor base,” says Oliveira. “Because of the language barrier and the regional aspect of the duckpin
Buffa Pro Shop.
game, Quebec proprietors have traditionally stayed apart from national associations. But the Buffas have done what they can to help bridge gaps and build relationships in this area, and we are very grateful for their efforts.” PBA Hall of Famer Marshall Holman, Frank Buffa and the kids. 68
The lanes at the Buffa studio.
4A KEEN EYE FOR COACHING Buffa’s bowling knowledge and pedagogical experience made him a natural coach, and he developed his skills enough to obtain a Level 3 coaching degree from the Canadian Tenpin Federation. Dedicated, passionate, and serious, Buffa says, “You gotta have the eye to be a coach. You gotta make sure you don’t teach everybody the same way. You gotta understand a lot of the concepts of bowling, and that takes a long time.” He had a strong desire to coach because when he started bowling there were no instructors and he wanted young bowlers to learn the proper way from the start. In addition to his own teaching, he brought leading American coaches like Fred Borden, John Jowdy, Carmen Salvino, and Bill Taylor to Montreal to teach his students. “We did a lot of good things up here for bowling,” says Buffa. One of those good things was installing a full-size lane in his warehouse where Buffa could give bowling lessons. Dubbed the Studio Buffa Training Center, it’s where Buffa has trained many leading Canadian bowlers, including Caroline Lagrange, who began with him when she was 14 years old and has gone on to capture two World Cup titles, as well as multiple international and Canadian gold medals. Buffa is especially proud of his son (and student) Mark, who became a champion when he won gold in trios at the 2013 World Championships with teammates François Lavoie and Patrick Girard. It’s no wonder that in 2009 the USBC awarded Buffa Gold status, making him the 34th coach to earn that distinction. In 2000, the Italian Bowling Federation was looking for a coach for Italy’s national team. “I was Italian, and I spoke Italian. They asked me to go down,” recalls Buffa. “I did that, and we won a bronze medal in the European Championships in Israel.” He went on to coach the Italian team for two years. 70
In 2002, a friend who managed a bowling center in Dubai asked Buffa if he would coach the United Arab Emirates team. Buffa was reluctant at first but agreed to give it a try for three months. “I tried it and my god, that was the best experience ever,” he says. At their first tournament, the Asian Championships, the UAE team produced a gold medal in singles. Then, in 2004, another of his UAE bowlers won a gold medal at the World Rankings in Moscow. Known throughout the UAE, Buffa still travels there twice a year to give courses and has worked with the national team of Qatar as well. Although he no longer coaches any teams full-time, Buffa remains dedicated to coaching, training other coaches and bowlers, and helping his son with Buffa Distribution. “We want to be known as the innovators in the bowling world,” says Buffa. “We want to bring out the best.”
At the Munich World Championships in 2010. From the left: Frank Buffa with son Mark, Jean-Sebastien Lessard, and Lucien Casagrande.
Innovative and the best. On the lanes or the ice, that’s the way they like it in Montreal. ❖
Robert Sax is a writer and PR consultant in Los Angeles. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, the home of five-pin bowling.
1-2 Lasertron’s Laser Tag Conference Laser-tron.com (800) 897-8766
East Coast Bowling Center Convention Kalahari Resort – Poconos www.bpaa.com
17-19 BPAA Bowling University Management School Toftrees Golf Resort State College, PA
8-9 2018 LaserTAG360 Creative Works Danny Gruening (317) 834-4770, ext 104 firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUST 2-5 Pro Shop Training Classes Jayhawk Bowling Supply Russ or Alex (800) 255-6436
Trainertainment Business Coaching BPAA Training Campus, Arlington, TX Trainertainment.net (817) 886-4840
15 Illinois State BPA Digital Marketing Boot Camp Joliet Town & Country Lanes Joliet, IL (847) 982-1305 email@example.com
7-8 2018 LaserTAG360 Creative Works Danny Gruening (317) 834-4770, ext. 104 danny@the woweffect.com
22-23 Trainertainment Advanced Sales BPAA Training Campus, Arlington, TX Trainertainment.net (817) 886-4840
BPAA One-Day Management Boot Camps Available to state associations & multi-unit centers
JUNE 7-10 Pro Shop Training Classes Jayhawk Bowling Supply Russ or Alex (800) 255-6436
15-17 IBPSIA Master Class Southpoint Hotel and Casino Ibpsia.com
17-21 International Bowl Expo Paris Hotel and Casino Las Vegas, NV Bpaa.com/bowlexpo
IBI May 2018
6-9 Pro Shop Training Classes Jayhawk Bowling Supply Russ or Alex (800) 255-6436
Upcoming Management Boot Camps:
May: Iowa, Bev Van Blair, (515) 255-0808
SoCal, (909) 247-9734
4-7 Pro Shop Training Classes Jayhawk Bowling Supply Russ or Alex (800) 255-6436
July: Missouri, Skip Merryman, (817) 385-8446 Pennsylvania, Chris Gallas Ohio, Lewis Sims, (419) 935-1394 Idaho, Skip Merryman
7-9 Southwest Trade Show Texas Bowling Centers Association Golden Nugget Group rate available ($119) Lake Charles, LA Karen Miller (512) 467-9331 firstname.lastname@example.org
September: Louisiana, Marc Pater, (225) 925-5471 Contact Kelly Bednar (817) 385-8462 Kelly@bpaa.com
Official magazine of the convention
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CLASSIFIEDS EQUIPMENT FOR SALE Used WINS system Steltronic automatic scoring with new componentry & new operating desk. Bumper capability. $2450/lane installed. Also available: used Qubica scoring; bumper/gutter/capping; new & used synthetic lane panels. Installations available. Knotritellc@gmail.com. NEW & USED Pro Shop Equipment. Jayhawk Bowling Supply. (800) 255-6436 or jayhawkbowling.com. REPAIR & EXCHANGE. Call for details (248) 375-2751.
EQUIPMENT WANTED LANE MACHINES WANTED. We will purchase your KEGEL-built machine, any age or condition. Call (608) 764-1464.
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MECHANIC WANTED HEAD MECHANIC for Brunswick A2 pinsetters and Qubica BES X scoring, with overall center expertise needed. Busy 40-lane center in St. Clair Shores, a suburb of Detroit, MI. Good working environment. Salary negotiable. Send resume to email@example.com.
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