Once Upon A Lane
The story of Bowlmor Lanes
In 1938, the original Bowlmor Lanes opened its doors in the heart of Greenwich Village at 110 University Place. During the golden age of bowling that began in the 1940s and lasted into the 1960s, Bowlmor Lanes was at the forefront of the bowling revolution—hosting the prestigious Landgraf Tournament in 1942 and one of the first televised bowling tournaments in 1955. In 1958, Vice President Richard Nixon famously bowled at the lanes. Through the ’70s and ’80s, Bowlmor Lanes was home to some of the sport’s top bowlers and became a regular hangout for village hipsters. But as the ’90s approached and the popularity of bowling as a sport declined, so too did the condition of the bowling alley.
In 1994, Darden Business School Graduate Tom Shannon attended a birthday party at the then-dilapidated and financially strapped Bowlmor Lanes. The young entrepreneur was instantly inspired by its character and history. Although initially unaware of the challenges facing the owners, Shannon knew that this was the type of project he wanted to focus his creativity and business savvy on to transform. After three years of research and planning on how to build a viable business out of bowling, Shannon secured financing and purchased Bowlmor Lanes. His vision was to inject hip design elements into the tired and aged alley, add dramatic architecture, and perform a complete remodel of the internal operations. In essence, Shannon’s goal was to make bowling cool again.
Bowlmor’s revamp saw the installation of video screens, chic couches, nightclub-inspired blacklights, and the addition of laneside food and drink service. Shannon eliminated leagues—a bowling staple that he had been told “paid the rent”—in an effort to ease out regulars who did not cotton to the fancy trappings or the higher prices. His vision soon became a reality.
By 1999, Bowlmor Lanes became the highest-grossing bowling alley in the United States. Following the incredible success of Bowlmor Lanes in New York City, Shannon made plans to bring the Bowlmor concept across the country, opening Bowlmor Bethesda in suburban Washington, D.C., in 2001 to accolades. A year later, Shannon unveiled the now-closed Strike Long Island, whose cavernous underground space housed 35 lanes, a full-service restaurant, and four bars. In November 2004, the 34-lane Strike Miami opened in the Dolphin Mall, featuring a giant, state-of-the-art, sports-themed restaurant. Bowlmor Cupertino was next to open, debuting in California’s Silicon Valley in 2007, followed by Bowlmor Orange County in the summer of 2008. Then, in the fall of 2010, Bowlmor Lanes opened its flagship venue—its largest location to date—in the former New York Times newsroom in New York City. The 90,000-sq.ft. Bowlmor Times Square was hailed as the “Epcot of Bowling” and continues to be Manhattan’s premier entertainment destination.
Fast-forward to July 1, 2013. On that date, Bowlmor takes the bowling public by surprise, merging with industry leader AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. and forming a new combined company: Bowlmor AMF. The move ushered in a brand-new era in the company’s history, boosting the Bowlmor brand from six to 15 venues nationwide and expanding Bowlmor AMF’s combined institutional footprint to over 270 properties employing more than 7,500 staff.
Just one year later, the company acquired Brunswick’s bowling business, adding three new brands and another 80 locations to the Bowlmor AMF family. That same year, Bowlmor bid farewell to its original Union Square location, closing the timeless bowling icon after more than 70 years of service. During its illustrious tenure, Bowlmor Union Square played host to some of America’s most notable figures and rose to prominence as the longest continuously operating bowling alley on the East Coast.
Since then, the Bowlmor brand has continued its ascension—expanding its online presence, adding new features to its Chelsea Piers and Times Square properties, and opening new Bowlmor locations in Arizona, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York State.