An Entertainment Center’s Story of Renewal And Growth Via QubicaAMF’s HyperBowling
QubicaAMF calls its HyperBowling attraction “revolutionary,” in part because it is “built to extend the reach of bowling beyond the existing bowling population.” The system involves a new set of bowling games designed around an innovative bumper system that is installed directly on the bowling lane, which is then used as part of the game.
In HyperBowling, the lights on the bumpers create moving targets that players aim to hit or avoid, depending on the scenario. Driven by the BES X Bowler Entertainment System, each game has its own unique set of challenges and levels, and includes video game elements like progressive levels, increasing difficulty, risk-reward decisions, high score and other accomplishments.
Four different games provide a variety of challenges to fit different styles, skills and moods, QubicaAMF touts – and so do their customers. John Nelson, owner of Rose Bowl in New Castle, Ind., has been using the system since 2019 when it became the fifth facility in the world to install HyperBowling on all of its lanes.
“For years I wanted a third entertainment option, beyond bowling and the arcade, to add to our facility to help grow the business,” he explained. “But I wasn’t willing to give up lanes to install another attraction. When I saw a video presentation of HyperBowling, I immediately signed up. It was exactly what I’d been looking for.”
Rose Bowl was founded in 1961 as a 16-lane traditional center in the Indiana Rust Belt. Three years later with business booming during the golden era of leagues, the center expanded to 28 lanes. With the eventual decline of the local automotive industry came a similar situation for the city and the center business. In 2007, the center reached its lowest point with failing pinspotters and a physical facility in need of multiple costly repairs.
Nelson, who grew up near the center and knew the family owners, was brought in as a pro-bono consultant to help the ownership reposition the center. In 2008, he invested in the business and became a partial owner (and went on to fully purchase the center in 2012).
In 2009, the company replaced its antiquated automatic scoring system with new automatic scoring and purchased a new lane walker to provide the best lane conditions for their league bowlers. In ensuing years, the Rose Bowl underwent a complete renovation installing a new HVAC system, a new roof and a new redemption arcade with a cashless electronic card system.
The center later upgraded to the BES X Bowler Entertainment System, added CenterPunch deck lighting and the third attraction that Nelson had been searching for – HyperBowling. From there, the business grew exponentially.
“We installed HyperBowling about a year before the pandemic hit,” Nelson said. “Within six months, our month-by-month total revenue was up 30% and gross profit was up 25% compared to the same period the prior year before HyperBowling. Revenue went up for the entire business, not just open bowling.
“We also had substantial growth in food and beverage, shoe rental and arcade revenue. We were also way up in 5-star ratings. That trend continued until the business was shut down due to Covid-19.”
He attributed the growth directly to HyperBowling and the premium pricing that drove 20% of open play revenue. “With HyperBowling as the anchor, there was a real shift in the environment. The overall visual lighting experience is fantastic.
“We have beautiful deck lights that coordinate with lighting of the HyperBowling bumpers, plus the bright, fun and engaging HyperBowling graphics on the upper and lower monitors. When people walk into our center today, they say ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like this!’ HyperBowling does far more than cosmic bowling ever did, and it translates into more spending.”
Nelson added that HyperBowling wasn’t initially easy to advertise since most people didn’t know what it was. Rose Bowl ran a video ad campaign and staff greeted customers with: “Are you here to HyperBowl?”
It’s a quick and friendly sales pitch, he said, and while it doesn’t always work the first time, he added, “We’ve found many guests come back specifically to HyperBowl because they heard about it from our staff the last time they were in the center.”
Once they’ve tried it out, Nelson said they seem to be hooked, especially loving the social aspect. “Bowling itself is already social, but HyperBowling is even more so,” he said. “It’s universally appealing and it’s social for anyone regardless of their age or their bowling experience.”
Nelson recommends HyperActive for small kids and HyperSquad for those who enjoy competition, but what’s great about the system is that “there are options for everyone.” He added: “Even some of our league bowlers bring their families in regularly for evenings of HyperBowling.
“Essentially, all of our customers who try it love it. From kids to kids at heart. Families come together to play, parents and kids, grandparents and grandkids – and the kids have a real shot at winning. Automatic bumpers help us to be able to play together, but HyperBowling takes it to a new level. Rather than just throwing a ball with my grandson, we’re engaging in an activity where we don’t know who is going to win – so it’s anyone’s game.”
Through Covid, HyperBowling has been a constant contributor and has even been doing better than ever as of late.
Rose Bowl was closed entirely for three months before reopening in the early summer with limited operations. HyperBowling represented about 10-15% of open play revenue – “an important contribution during a very tough time.”
“In Q1 2021, revenue was 5% over the same period in 2020, which was already up 30% over the same non-HyperBowling period in 2019,” Nelson explained. “Today, business has surpassed our pre-pandemic volume and HyperBowling continues to be a big driver.”
He added: “HyperBowling has helped put the Rose Bowl on the map. It has changed our customer demographics. Many guests who come for HyperBowling are seeking a higher-end experience and are not shy to spend more throughout the facility – they eat and drink in the restaurant and bar and play in the arcade. They aren’t looking for the cheapest option. They are out for the experience and are willing to pay for it.”
The business has increased this HyperBowling hype – specifically working to target higher-income areas. In offering a premium product that nobody around them offers, they say they’re able to charge premium prices and people value it more.
They also created an upsell program to increase purchases that include adding 30 minutes to the standard hour-and-a-half bowling experience for $10 more, adding pizza and a pitcher at a discount, or getting a $25 arcade card for $20.
Nelson said he sees HyperBowling as “TopGolf for bowling.” “Golf is a great sport, but there are millions of people unwilling to spend four hours walking the course,” he said. “TopGolf gives people the fun of swinging a club in a social and entertaining environment.
“HyperBowling does a similar thing and brings a whole new dimension of entertainment to our industry. Bowling is a wonderful sport, but millions of people aren’t interested in the same 10-frame competitive game over and over again, especially if they aren’t a good bowler to begin with. HyperBowling changes all of that.”
This September, Rose Bowl will celebrate its 60th anniversary, excited to have HyperBowling as its anchor attraction. Nelson calls it “one of the key investments that has and will continue to energize us and keep us in business for the long haul.”
“I don’t see the old center that barely survived the changing economics,” he said. “Today, I see a thriving entertainment facility that is a center point for people to play, be entertained and socialize. I’m not thinking about how we are going to survive, but what’s the next thing that builds on HyperBowling that will help us thrive?”