The 2017 Bowl Expo came to a close on Thursday, June 22, at the Nashville Opryland mega-hotel and convention center, and by all accounts was a resounding success. The event, put on by the Bowling Proprietor’s Assn. of America (BPAA), featured a jam-packed schedule that opened on Sunday, June 18, and included productive meetings, educational sessions, speaker presentations, networking opportunities and a sold-out, two-day tradeshow.
BPAA Exec. Dir. Frank DeSocio estimated that attendance was up 15-16 percent over last year, and that they even had a fair amount of walk-up registrants on the last day of the show. Two main factors played into this year’s increase, Frank explained.
“A lot of people were able to drive here,” he said, remarking on a 500-mile radius from which people a “huge” number of people will come in by car rather than flying in. It’s been since 1998, when Bowl Expo was also held in Nashville, that they held the event in a “Midwestern” location. Thanks to the association’s success drawing people to Music City, DeSocio remarked: “We will definitely be back in Nashville sooner than later.”
The proximity to a sizable number of bowling centers played into attendee growth, but perhaps more important was the industry itself. DeSocio enthused: “The bowling business is expanding. It’s as simple as that!”
Busy Trade Show
The mood on the 900-booth floor was upbeat with crowded exhibit aisles. Even as the event counted down to its 4 p.m. closing on Thursday, there was still strong traffic as bowling proprietors visited with suppliers, checking out the latest in lanes, pins, balls, shoes, software and more.
Exhibitors from “our” side of things were plentiful with AAMA hosting 15 manufacturers in its own pavilion (including itself) and many others in booths of their own scattered throughout the floor from distributors, redemption merchandise suppliers and finance firms to player card and software system makers, ATMs and more.
Laser tag was also well represented with equipment makers and theming specialists; center owners could also learn more about escape rooms and VR. (In addition to UNIS’ Omni Arena VR which was set up in AAMA’s pavilion, there was one other VR maker showing its goods, Private Label VR.)
It would seem that there is still plenty of growth ahead for amusements in bowling locations as alley owners continue to investigate adding games and other attractions to their mixes.
Surprisingly, in just the first handful of bowling proprietors RePlay spoke with in the show’s opening minutes, two of the five were at Bowl Expo to explore the possibility of adding games to their alleys. (By the way, in our unscientific survey of those who already have games, we found it split pretty evenly between centers owning their own equipment and those working with an operator.) In an interesting twist, Brunswick’s sales topper John Rouse said they were having good success going the other direction with FEC owners talking with them about adding bowling to their locations in order to broaden their demographics. How about that!!!
Read more about the 2017 Bowl Expo in the August issue of RePlay, and visit www.bpaa.com to learn about the association and keep up to date on plans for the 2018 outing when the convention returns to Las Vegas.