WISCONSIN STATE OF THE INDUSTRY: NEWS IS GOOD

Bowling’s ever-declining certified league bowler base has created “Woe Is Me Syndrome” among many in the industry. But many others believe that the sport, game and industry are simply going through an evolutionary period. Major equipment manufacturers have reported strong sales, mostly to new investors who recognize the power of bowling as an anchor for businesses centered around socializing.

Yvonne Bennett, Executive Director of the Bowling Centers Association of Wisconsin, has sent a memo to BCAW board members describing how “Woe Is Me Syndrome” is not afflicting the Badger State. With her permission, we’re sharing it here.

As she notes, it serves as something of a “State of the Industry” report for bowling in Wisconsin.

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TO: BCAW Board of Directors

CC: BCAW Staff & BPAA Leadership

Good Morning Folks! I’m excited to be providing this update to you all . . . as BCAW has continued to have unprecedented membership growth . . . sustainable growth over the past 5 years!

This past week, we signed up the following new centers:

* Bruce’s Bar & Bowl (4 lanes in Valders – District 7)

* Baugniet’s Badger Bowl (4 lanes in Mishicot – District 7)

* Lodge 57/ModTruss (a former Elks Lodge – 4 lanes in Fond du Lac –

District 7)

And on Monday Court Lanes Mill, a 12 laner in Milwaukee/District 1, will be joining!

The three small centers are all vintage era locations and I can say confidently have joined for two reasons . . . our efforts to promote and feature bowling’s history and heritage through collaboration with others to preserve and tell the story of vintage era bowling in Wisconsin . . . and out of relationships cultivated and nurtured over time.

Court Lanes Mill is joining because an otherwise distressed center was recently bought and going through a rebirth. Through the collaborative efforts of board members (Dave Scherbarth and Hank Posnanski) supported by staff (yours truly) . . . we will add another long time non-member to the list of BCAW/BPAA members.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when passion meets vision!!! Since 2014, BCAW has brought 67 bowling centers into BCAW/BPAA membership.

To put this into perspective, when I joined BCAW we had 167 bowling center members. As of Monday, we will be standing strong at 208! This is in spite of losing 14 member centers to closure over the past four years.

Prior to 2017, the last time our association had 208 members was 1992 . . . when there were probably 100 more bowling centers and bars with bowling lanes across the state.

This remarkable feat was achieved through the passion and vision of many. Kudos to the BCAW Board of Directors for recognizing the potential. Personally, thank you for allowing me to bring the vision to life, as we set goals . . . and to say “no” when other priorities demanded our full time and attention in other areas in that first year.

Laser focus and setting the groundwork first, then staying the course, set us up for success. Bowlapalooza became a thing in August 2015 . . . and has remained an important part of our creating and maintaining relationships that are critical in the membership efforts . . . both in recruiting AND retaining. Bowlapalooza IV is going into full swing this coming week. (And thank you Bart Burger for coining the term!)

The road ahead will not be easy as we continue to see centers close and bowling lanes being removed from bars & taverns. But I do see a bright future as new owners come into our industry with renewed passion, energy and money to invest. This year alone, six of our eight new members are new to the bowling industry, having just bought an existing business with bowling lanes. Please let that sink in for just a moment.

Additionally, we are anticipating three new FEC model businesses coming into the Milwaukee market in the next six to eight months. Round 1 Entertainment, Punch Bowl Social and WhirlyBall will all create a fun buzz around social bowling . . . something what doesn’t have to be viewed as negative to our game. If more people are out enjoying bowling then maybe, just maybe, some of them will have the bowling bug bite them and they will seek out our more traditional bowling venues to join leagues, buy bowling equipment and bring friends along with them!

Thank you all for allowing me to be part of this amazing time in bowling. Sure, it’s not what it was when we all first had the bowling bug bite us, but evolution is inevitable. It’s how you deal with it and visualize your role in the changing landscape that will determine success.

I continue to feel fortunate, energized and optimistic for the future of BCAW and the bowling industry in Wisconsin!

Best wishes to you all as we get ready for the upcoming bowling season!

Yvonne

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