An opening in the rock face slides open, and the warriors pour into the bizarre archaeological site. Rough-hewn blocks, cool to the touch, form close tunnels that let fast breaths echo. Light trickles in through a hole in the ceiling, as though something else had gotten here first. Suddenly, the warriors scatter, and adrenaline-tinged shouts drift up through the constant fire of up to 60 laser guns as the explorers tear through the 20,000-square-foot, newly expanded space. As they sprint past shrouded aliens and desiccated palm trees, their suits transmit stats to the outside world, where real-time scoreboards track their prowess and battle-cry harmonies, and plasma monitors display shootouts taking place in the fog-filled arena.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Automatic scoring screens hover above West Lane Bowl's polished hardwood floors, allowing players to focus solely on sending balls on a collision course. Inside the spacious facility, families and pros alike compete during 10-frame series as the coffee shop serves wings, burgers, and pizzas and the sports bar welcomes players into its TV-filled enclave for a cocktail or a game of billiards. Those celebrating a birthday or successful weaning off of bumper bowling can gather in the private party rooms for cake and festivities between games and send guests home with swag-filled goody bags purchased from West Lane Bowl's pro shop.