James Graham doesn’t really care what you choose to call the well-known Overland Park bowling alley off College Boulevard and U.S. Highway 69.
The operations manager for Bowlero just wants you to know that bowling is back and here to stay in the area after a major remodel of the facility.
“Some people still remember it as King Louie on College,” Graham said. “Most people wonder why it’s not called AMF College Lanes anymore. Bowlero actually bought AMF back in 2013, but they only recently decided to change the signs and make it official.”
A new “Bowlero” sign now marks the building, 10201 College Blvd., that was formerly AMF College Lanes, which might confuse some longtime residents and passers-by, but Graham invites bowling fans to come inside and check out the new “night club” vibe.
The Overland Park lanes are now run by Bowlero
The national bowling chain has poured millions into its only franchise in the Kansas City area (and one of the only traditional bowling alleys left in Overland Park).
Bowlero — then known as Bowlmor — acquired AMF Bowling Worldwide in 2013, rescuing the company from bankruptcy, and establishing Bowlero as the world’s largest bowling entertainment group.
They have continued buying up competitors over the past decade, growing their footprint around the country. Despite the industry being hit hard in 2020 by COVID-19, they have managed to fight their way back to profitability.
“Our post-COVID numbers are looking very good,” Graham said. “Those first nine months were very hard, but Bowlero stuck to their guns, that included paying managers on staff. Many employees came back once we reopened.”
COVID-19 posed a challenge to bowling in Overland Park
COVID-19 hurt, Graham says. Masks, social distancing (every other lane was closed off) and cleaning measures made the atmosphere at the Overland Park lanes feel subdued. The future of the game looked bleak.
“Bowling is, naturally, a very social activity,” Graham said. “That looked like it had been taken away.”
But Bowlero managed to return to profitability by the end of 2021, and saw revenues that year up 20% from the same time in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
The company has since debuted on Wall Street (under the ticker symbol “BOWL”) and increased its national footprint to more than 340 local lanes in 35 states.
Graham says the company is serious about continuing to expand its footprint, as well as extensive remodeling of its locations around the country, including the lanes in Overland Park.
“They’ve already spent about $1 million here since October,” Graham said. “It’s probably going to be closer to $2 million after it’s all said and done.”
Overland Park bowling alley looks different now
The remodeling, which was set to go before the pandemic but was delayed after the illness started spreading locally, began in October with new orange-hued lighting, remodeled lanes, the addition of large-screen TVs, a revamped sound system and more work to the arcade room.
Further enhancements are still being made around the building, including in the snack bar area and the game room.
A new menu will also arrive soon, offering bowlers everything from salmon and coconut shrimp, to cheeseburgers and milkshakes.
“It’s going to be pretty ambitious and diverse,” Graham said. “We will have food similar to an Applebee’s, but with more eclectic things. You’ll also have more availability of upscale items, especially when you’re booking events with us.”
Bowlero runs a number of promotions each day at its local alleys, from bowling specials at night to half-priced arcade games on Wednesdays.
The response to all of the changes, from the new name to the look and feel of everything inside the building, has been positive, Graham said.
And bowling is still an activity that appeals to people of all ages.
“We’ve just got this great location here on College near JCCC and Corporate Woods,” Graham said. “What we have is something that works for corporate events or kids parties. I started bowling when I was 4-years-old, and have been doing it for over 30 years. It’s in my DNA.”
Ben McCarthy is a contributor to the Post and other publications in the Kansas City area. He can be reached at email@example.com with questions, comments and story suggestions.