This story originally appeared in the March issue of Bowling Center Management (BCM).

“I’m goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come

I’m goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.”

No, we’re not talking about the Willie Harrison version of this (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller classic, nor the Little Richard, James Brown or even the Beatles versions. We speak of the BPAA version — the first bowling management conference since the COVID-19 outbreak, held at the Marriot Kansas City Airport in late January.

Promoted as the Post-COVID School for Bowling Center Management, the first two words of the title proved to be a tad premature as coronavirus vaccines were not rolled out as quickly as anticipated. But that did not stop the conference from moving forward — adhering to all CDC and local guidelines in order to keep attendees and presenters safe and comfortable.

“We figured that most people who were willing to get in an airplane probably would be okay with sitting in a conference room as long as we spread them out,” said Bart Burger, BPAA’s Director of Membership and Educational Services. “But just to be sure, we gave them green, yellow and red dot-stickers to place on their nametags so they could convey to their comfort level to others. Everyone ended up wearing green, which meant it was okay to approach them.”

Gerald Morrow, BPAA’s Education Training Coordinator, noted that each person had their own 6-foot-long table, and that the tables were spaced 10 feet apart.

“Providing that sense of comfort in this type of environment was top of mind as we were putting this school together,” Morrow said. “We figured everybody would look through a different lens depending on where they came from, so we put safety first to make it as comfortable for them as possible.”

Two of the attendees, Erika Lopez of The 300 Club of Green Lake in Green Lake, Wis., and Tammie Pollard of Sahoma Lanes in Sapulpa, Okla., traveled to Kansas City for very different reasons. Lopez is a newcomer to the bowling business, while Pollard might be described as a “lifer.”

Lopez and her brother-in-law, Orlando Rivera (who will be in charge of The 300 Club’s daily operations), attended so they could learn from industry veterans and pick up tips about running the 12-lane center that’s in the middle of a full remodel. Lopez and her husband live in Scottsdale, Ariz., where they own a large construction company, and would spend summers in Green Lake so their children could be exposed to a small-town way of life for at least a few months each year.

“Last summer, everything in Green Lake was shut down,” Lopez recalled. Then she added with a smile, “We were bored, so we bought the bowling alley.”

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Lopez said that she hopes to “create community” with the revitalized venue, giving families a place to go and have fun at a time when “so much of our little town is gone.”

Sahoma Lanes has twice as many lanes at The 300 Club, and Pollard approached the conference as a way “to meet different people and get motivated” about her business. She said that while Oklahoma wasn’t impacted as much as other states by pandemic-related shutdowns, there’s still a need to be smarter about running the business.

“We were really bad about setting goals and going through the numbers,” Pollard said. “We were bad about looking at payroll and seeing what we were leaving on the table. Since getting back home, my mind is like I’m still in class — really breaking down the numbers.”

Pollard said she also wanted to learn more about BPAA’s Bowling University online courses, so she could match up specific employees with specific courses.

“I’m glad I went, and I’m ready for another,” she said.

Another conference that puts the safety and comfort of attendees first? Perhaps in Arlington? Or Louisville?

School for Bowling Center Management

April 18-23

International Bowling Campus

Arlington, Texas


International Bowl Expo

June 20-24

The Galt House Hotel and Kentucky International Convention Center

Louisville, Kentucky


School of Entertainment Center Management

October 3-8

International Bowling Campus

Arlington, Texas


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