Before making his mark in the bowling world and landing in the PBA Hall of Fame, hometown hero Steve Cook grew up practicing his craft at Fireside Lanes. Today, he serves as the proprietor of his old stomping grounds, fostering a friendly, supportive community built around his favorite sport, with youth and senior leagues alongside birthday parties, families, and groups of friends. A staff of PBA champions and trainers at The Strike Shop suits up serious bowlers with equipment tune-ups and lessons. After long sessions of knocking down pins and telekinetically keeping balls out of the gutter, guests chow down on sandwiches and burgers at the bar and grill, or immerse themselves in the racing games and air hockey tables of the nearby arcade.
Across nearly three-fourths of the United States, AMF Bowling Co. reverberates year-round as families, friends, and competitors send bowling balls in search of upright pins careening down slick lanes. The company first established itself as an industry leader in 1946, the same year the sport introduced automated pinspotters.
Today, more than 20 million bowlers annually make AMF their battleground for wars against pins. As the largest owner and and operator of bowling centers in the US, AMF locations offer high-tech scoring technology, a classic design, and a menu stocked with American-inspired classics such as wings, pizzas, burgers, and beer.
One of the most common bowling game interrupters is the human need to ingest food, a dilemma Country Club Lanes West solves by serving savory snacks and crisp beverages inside their bowling facility. Chili fries drizzled with cheese, 6-ounce hamburgers, and slices of pepperoni pizza spring forth from the snack bar to fuel players caught up in high-scoring games and documentarians chronicling their search for the 11th pin. Postbowling celebrations kick off in the Showtime Lounge, where revelers start games of billiards and darts while sipping on a selection of draft brews, including Yuengling, Fat Tire, and Budweiser.
When Ross Amin first walked into the nearly empty Capitol Bowl in 1999, he couldn't even tell if it was open. "It looked like it hadn't gotten any attention for a long time," he says. Still, he saw something in the space and decided to take over, launching a series of renovations, which were recently completed in late 2011.
Today, the modernized alley features lofty ceilings and a gauntlet of 20 overhauled lanes that keep score with Brunswick systems that were last upgraded in April 2012. Like a catcher's facemask or a pitcher's facial hair, bumpers (available upon request) can protect players against wayward balls. In between frames, the weary rest up by playing 1 of 15 video games in the arcade. Ross is most excited by Capitol Bowl’s updated café, which eschews traditional snack bar offerings in favor of chef-created entrees, which are made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Ross's favorite, the pastrami sandwich, is served hot with meat that’s smoked in house and spicy mustard. Some nights live music fills the bar, and flat-screen televisions air sports games and glow bowling gives the alley a neon aura.
Full-service snack and beverage bars provide lubrication for moistureless mouths and nourishment for nosh-needy teeth with a menu consisting of sandwiches, snacks, and sodas, and pool tables and video games keep trained fingers in pin-fighting form. The on-premises pro shop allows bowlers to accessorize their outfits with matching balls, stylish wrist guards, and spare shoes for centaur teammates.
All across California, Western Bowling Proprietors Association sends pins scattering at a network of bowling alleys, each with its own personality. In addition to open bowl on automatically scored lanes, many locations host special events that heighten the experience with enhancements such as vibrant lights, lively music, and laser systems that do double duty protecting the alleys' diamond collections. The alleys also house refreshment facilities, pro shops, and diversions that range from arcade games to billiards.