Business Spotlight: Beyond Bowling
Don’t call it a bowling alley.
Battlefield Lanes owner Andy Bartholomy spent $4.4 million to turn his 40,000-square-foot bowling alley into something more.
He’s dubbed it Andy B’s Entertainment Center.
“It’s not even fair to call it a bowling center. It’s an entertainment center,” Bartholomy says, standing in the restaurant a month after unveiling the new concept.
Under the Bartholomy Bowling Centers banner, Bartholomy owns 10 bowling and entertainment venues. Springfield is Bartholomy’s third conversion to Andy B’s, which includes redemption games, laser tag, a restaurant and bar, as well as conference and party rooms. He started the concept in Tulsa, Okla., in 2007, before taking it to the Memphis, Tenn., market in 2012.
Bartholomy Bowling also owns and operates seven traditional bowling centers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee.
Very important bowlers
Long before general contractor DeWitt & Associates Inc. began the renovations and 6,000-square-foot expansion of the former Battlefield Lanes in June, Bartholomy picked up a love for the game as a teenager working at Walnut Bowl – now Lighthouse Lanes on Glenstone Avenue.
“I was able to practice and sharpen my game. Coming out of high school, I was able to start bowling nationally in tournament bowling,” says Bartholomy, a Murray, Ky.-native. “I did that for six years, while I was working at the lanes.”
He arrived in the Queen City in 1977, when his father, John Bartholomy, was named the 12th president of Drury University.
A severe wrist injury – brought on by years of improper technique, he says – forced Andy Bartholomy to back away from the sport, but it also turned his attention to the business side.
“I managed to save enough money to buy a little, 12-lane center in Marshfield: Coach Light Lanes,” he says.
He made the purchase in 1988, some six years before he’d buy Andy B’s forerunner in Springfield.
“From there, it was just about growing and acquiring,” he says.
In 2005, Bartholomy bought a massive Tulsa bowling alley with 80 lanes under the name River Lanes. Built in a “V” shape, he wanted to convert at least part of one side into an area for parties and groups. Around that time, brands such as Lucky Strike Entertainment Center were popping up in major metropolitan areas with bowling being only one component among a range of entertainment options. That intrigued him.
“Our decision was to create VIB bowling,” he says of the Very Important Bowler naming concept. “We took 16 of those 40 lanes and created an exclusive atmosphere complete with couch seating, light shows, giant TV screens, etc.”
Replicated a handful of years later in Bartlett, Tenn., he says Bartholomy Bowling revenue was up 60 percent in 2013 compared to 2011 before the changes. He declined to disclose annual revenues.
At Andy B’s in Springfield, 10 lanes are set aside for VIB bowling, and 21 are traditional lanes, with fewer bells and whistles. All 31 lanes have brand new scoring systems, couch seating and table-side service.
A floor-to-ceiling wall on the old Lane 11 separates the two areas, and a built-in garage door provides access. On the VIB side, an audio-visual system for themed theatrical displays mixes flashing lights in time with music and an interactive video screen above the pins. With access to a private bar, VIBs roll bowling balls striped liked pool balls with the numbers representing their weight.
In the 8,800-square-foot basement, a flooded-mine-themed laser tag area designed for up to 20 players, with sound effects and black lights, fills the east side, while a conference and party space – slated to be finished this month – takes up the west.
DeWitt & Associates Project Manager Kelsey Kindall has worked the past year with Bartholomy and Andy B’s General Manager J.R. Huyck to bring the company’s vision to life.
“It was a challenge for (them) and for DeWitt & Associates because, with the exception of a 30-day period, we maintained full operations of the bowling alley through final, partial occupancy,” Kindall says of the VIB opening on Feb. 26 for a 417 Magazine party. “We basically put in an entire new heating and air-conditioning system, we put in a brand new electrical system in 90 percent of the building, all new carpet and finishes. The mechanical, electrical work has all been upgraded.
“You walk in and see the new paint on the walls and carpeting, but a good portion of that work, you don’t think about.”
During construction, Bartholomy says business slowed by more than 50 percent.
The only portions of the building that aren’t new are the lanes and pinsetters, says Bartholomy, who had new administrative offices built with the expansion.
Andy B’s employed 25 in January and about 75 around the first of April, with a target of around 90 in all. Companywide, Bartholomy Bowling employs about 400, he says.
Huyck says the food and beverage services were important upgrades.
From pretzel bun sandwiches with avocados to ultimate nachos on china, he says it’s no longer the expected bowling-alley fare.
“You won’t see any wax paper or hot dog rollers in this joint,” Huyck says of the Indulge Restaurant & Bar, which also offers catering.
Bartholomy is considering expanding the Andy B’s concept to a few more of his centers, but competition from such companies as Dallas-based Main Event Entertainment give him pause.
Still, the avid golfer says he is competitive with everything and part of the fun in business is being in the middle of the action.
“This is my life’s work,” Bartholomy says. “I fell in love with the industry.”
This article was written by Brian Brown and has been edited by the Andy B's team. It originally appeared in the Springfield Business Journal.