Sandy Hansell, a national bowling-center broker with Southfield, Mich.-based Sandy Hansell and Associates Inc., said the big bowling-based entertainment centers are a relatively new trend that began three to four years ago. Now, the centers are popping up all over the country.
“The idea is, if we have 15 different activities, we’ll draw a broader crowd and then there will be a spillover,” Hansell said. “They may come for one thing, but while they’re here, they’ll see something else” to do.
The recession may have also fueled the trend.
Bowling has traditionally done well in tough economic times, because it is a reasonably priced family-oriented recreational activity close to home. From 2010 to March 2013 about 75 percent of centers across the country reported that their operating revenues were up, stable or down only slightly, Hansell reported.
The Valley is a ripe market for the centers because it has a large population of families and single people looking for entertainment, said Amy Johnson,director of marketing for Main Event Entertainment. A desert climate that puts indoor entertainment at a premium can’t hurt, either. Company officials say they want to build even more centers in the Valley than those planned.
For attractions like the Ak-Chin casino, the entertainment complex is an additional draw for tourists who come to gamble, said Adam Saks, vice president of operations and general manager at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle.
Cities like the venues because they bring entertainment and jobs.
Avondale officials say the incentives given to Main Event are worth the investment. The center will increase city tax revenues, lift property values and spur further development on the now-empty 40-acre site, they say. The center will create 100 to 125 full- and part-time jobs after it is completed, according to city projections.
When they approved the project, several council members mentioned the city lacked things for residents to do, especially kids and teens. Some city leaders said their teenagers go to Uptown Alley in Surprise.
Indeed on Thursday, the Reese family of Avondale and family members from Yuma were at Uptown Alley. They joined another family they didn’t know previously in a nine-person game of laser tag.
Uptown Alley averages about 1,000 people a day, if you average the total weekly volume of customers, most of whom come on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, said Mike Auger,managing partner of Trifecta Management Group, a part owner of Uptown Alley in Surprise.
Bella Reese, 14, said she has been to Uptown Alley three times, and her friends also go there.
“I like the laser tag,” she said, adding that she competes with other players. “I get first place.”
Tess Reese, 36, Bella’s mother, said she enjoys bringing her three children to the center because of the entertainment options and the food and drinks.
“It’s one of the funner places there is to go close to us,” she said. “It has everything that we like to do.”
As more huge bowling venues have opened in the Valley, word-of-mouth has continued to spread.
Genesis Jackson, 3, was working on her game as she bowled with her brother Jacob, 8, and mom, Zuri, 29, and dad, Josh, 31, at the Ak-Chin center.
Side bumpers automatically popped up when she rolled the ball down the lane, to keep the ball out of the gutter. Big screens showed videos at the end of the lanes.
The family said they heard about the center from other people in Maricopa, and it was their first time going there.
Josh said he has never bowled in a place like the center.
“It’s definitely state of the art,” he said, and affordable. “We paid $25 and we got the games, shoes and a large pizza and two $10 game cards. That’s a good value.”