BEC Profile – Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce



Heather and Darrin Skinner

Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce’s Heather and Darrin Skinner excitedly show off their new EDGE String Pinspotters in this 2019 photo. (Credit: Mary L. Photography)


Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce

Owner Darrin Skinner Says He’s Learned a Thing or Two Along the Way

by Matt Harding

Darrin Skinner got into the amusement industry unlike many others. No, it wasn’t a family business or lifelong dream, but rather a way to recession-proof his income.

After graduating from college in 1995, Skinner began his career as an executive recruiter. He started his own recruiting practice in 1999 and it was going swimmingly until about 2008-09 when the Great Recession hit. The business went downhill as hiring became sparse.

“I thought, ‘I should try to figure out a way to have something so I’m not so dependent on big market fluctuations like this,’” he recalled. “Out of the disaster of 2009 was my inspiration to do something different.”

That something different ended up being Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce, a bowling entertainment center featuring an arcade, bounce houses and beer on tap. Skinner had been introduced to a developer who was looking to develop a property near the lake, which splits North Carolina and South Carolina. (The center is on the South Carolina side and only a 20-mile drive to bustling Charlotte, N.C.)

Skinner continued his executive recruiting business right up until this year when he finally made the “easy choice” to focus full-time on the fun center. “Recruiting is what paid to open Bowl N’ Bounce and subsidize the business early on,” he said. “Now I’m at a point where Bowl N’ Bounce is the only thing I have to do now.”

While his parents bowled in leagues, Skinner was more of a casual bowler. “I didn’t open Bowl N’ Bounce as an avid bowler – I just saw it as something the community could really use,” he explained, adding that his children were young at the time and he thought a youth play area and the family atmosphere was a cool idea.

Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce opened in July 2012 at about 26,000 sq. ft. of space. “At the time, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is huge.’” The facility had 16 lanes of bowling, five bounce houses and a bounce area, 20 used arcade games on revenue share with a local operator, as well as six beers on tap and a small snack bar.

“We were doing OK but realized in the first year we needed more,” he said. “It took us a few months to figure out the basic stuff. We had no idea what we were doing.” (“We” meaning he and his wife Heather, who also owns the business.)

“We definitely learned a lot in a short period of time after we opened,” Skinner said, noting there had been staffing challenges and seemingly constant equipment woes. “Something always needed to be repaired. The first couple months in a pipe burst and the entire dining room flooded. Now, we do a better job of staying ahead of those things and reacting to them when they happen.”

Shortly after that first year, they added about 5,000 sq. ft. for a laser tag arena. In 2016, they started buying their own arcade games. Initially, there were 30 new games in the center. Today, after buying about 15 each year, the FEC has amassed about 90 games. They have also since added a walk-in cooler with 20 beers on tap and got a liquor license.

In 2018, out of frustration with the old bowling pinsetters, Skinner said: “I looked into string pins. It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make because I wasn’t sure what the response would be. Since we did it, it’s been a home run.”

Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce was actually a beta test site for QubicaAMF’s then brand-new EDGE String Pinspotter. “Before they were being released, we called ourselves Switzerland … other big entertainment centers would come visit us so they could get a look at them.”

Lake Wylie Bowl N' Bounce laser tag

A 90-game arcade, laser tag arena designed by Creative Works and soft play structures are among the facility’s attractions.

Today, the center is just under 34,000 sq. ft. after building the laser tag addition and taking over a vacant space next door in the attached strip. They still feature 16 lanes of bowling, now using EDGE String and Qubica’s BES X scoring system (they also have the company’s Conqueror X for POS). Additionally, there are Wednesday and Thursday night bowling leagues.

The 90 arcade games all run on the Intercard system. It’s about 80% redemption, 10% video and 10% cranes and merchandisers. Some of the most popular machines are various ticket cranes, Marvel and DC pushers, King Kong VR, Asphalt 9 Legends and quick-play redemption machines like Power Roll and Monopoly.

Their laser tag setup, which opened in 2015, is a 24-player arena designed by Creative Works. After some consideration, they’ve also opted to remove the bounce houses in favor of multi-level soft play structures for the kiddos.

While bowling and the arcade are by far the top-earning attractions, Skinner said he’s plenty happy with laser tag and the play area because they let younger kids grow with the center. He said more than a few of his young employees had birthdays at Bowl N’ Bounce when they were in elementary school. (The business has about 35 employees in total, including some managers who’ve been aboard for many years.)

Skinner fam

Darrin and Heather Skinner with their children Alexandra, Sasha and Zach in the arcade, where Power Roll and King Kong VR are among the favorites.

It’s that family atmosphere that cements the facility as a community pillar. In fact, they’re a part of two communities – South Carolina and North Carolina. “We have two different high schools that are fairly close by on different sides of the border,” he said, mentioning that Bowl N’ Bounce sponsors sports teams and things like that in the area.

Skinner said the business pulls a really diverse demographic – mainly from the more suburban and rural South Carolina side, but also from the urban North Carolina side. As Charlotte Metro continues to grow, he estimates that his customer base has probably doubled in the past decade. “We’re certainly a unique offering in the Lake Wylie area,” he added.

On the food and beverage side of things, Bowl N’ Bounce still keeps it simple, though there’s been a few additions over the years. Today, they offer 20 beers on tap, cans and bottles, wine and liquor to go along with their “high-end snack bar,” with items like loaded nachos, spicy fried pickles and chicken wings.

“Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce is doing great. It far exceeded my expectations,” Skinner reported. He said there’s never been an aspiration to open a second location – he’s perfectly happy adding to the existing facility and making it the best it can be.

When he spoke with RePlay in May, the center was in its slower period. With great weather in the area, most people are gathering outdoors. Come June, business is booming with school out and 90-degree weather pushing people inside through August. Their best months, however, tend to be from November to March, and even into April.

“We have such a repeat business out here,” Skinner said. “If you offer something that’s interesting at a fair price, people will come.

“The two things I’m most conscious of as owner of the business is keeping it current and keeping it as affordable as possible. If we can keep doing those things, we’ll keep being successful moving forward.”

Check out Lake Wylie Bowl N’ Bounce at



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