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Bowl Opinion - Sept 2015 - You Can Have It All... If You Remember History 9/15/2015

by Jim Goodwin - Stars & Strikes Newsmagazine

This past month, CJ and I spent some qual- ity time in the Sunshine State, where the tem- perature and humidity are equals this time of year, but aside from the melting atmospheric conditions, the warm hearts of our Florida friends made it all worthwhile.

The primary purpose of our trip was to attend the Grand Opening of Pat and Lisa Ciniello's new Headpinz Entertainment Center in beautiful Fort Myers, but we also took time to visit with our friend Jeff Boje; and we enjoyed the hospitality of Alan and Meg Eichler, whom we have known since our days of working in the PWBA.

We met Jeff at his center in Riverview, near Tampa, where we sat down for an interview that will run in BNN papers in the next few months. Jeff is one of only two people who have served as both BPAA and USBC President, and his family owns bowling centers both in St. Louis and Florida. During his years serving bowling headquarters, he was one of the key people in the merger of ABC and WIBC, and as an officer and a CPA; he played a pivotal role in working with the merged USBC and BPAA in moving USBC from Wisconsin to Texas and creating the International Bowling Campus in 2010.

The point is, Jeff Boje knows a lot about all sides of bowling, and he is a person who has refused to play the old identity game that divided proprietors from membership association people for far too long. And his bowling centers reflect that philosophy.

In Riverview, we enjoyed a nice lunch and a very personal tour of Boje's newest center, called The Alley at SouthShore. In fact, we got two tours. Upon arrival, the very dynamic Sales Director Melissa Hartmann gave us a once-around, and with great people like her, it is easy to see why the business is doing so well.

Melissa took us through the private lounge where many corporate parties are held, through the huge arcade, past the lanes where senior leagues were wall-to-wall at mid-day on Monday, and finally, past the cafe and ice cream parlor to the enormous sports bar where Super Bowl Parties are already booked for the next three years.

One small thing happened when nobody was looking. While seated across the room waiting for Jeff, I noticed that an elderly lady entered the side door of the lounge. Immediately, Melissa greeted her by name and offered to carry her bowling ball to the lanes. That is the kind of personal service that sometimes goes unnoticed; but in this case, I noticed, and I sure hope Jeff knows how lucky he is to have people who provide it with a smile and a hug like Melissa did that day.

When Jeff arrived, we visited a few of the areas again, and got the personal stories behind the historic photographs and wall hangings throughout the facility. Old black and white photos showed the personal connection between the Boje family and many famous bowlers and celebrities, mostly from the glory days in St. Louis when famous people like Dick Weber and Stan Musial did not know they were famous.

Most people would call Boje's centers Hybrids, meaning that they have achieved a comfortable balance between the traditional league based business model and the new family entertainment concept. Centers like these prove that, in the bowling business of today, you can have it all. With the right people and the right business plan, centers can accommodate leagues and still enjoy the huge income opportunities of corporate and birthday parties and other amenities.

Look for much more in the upcoming Boje interview in BNN publications from coast to coast. Another perfect example of hybrid centers finding success is the operation owned by Pat and Lisa Ciniello in Southwest Florida. The Ciniello's own and operate seven centers under the corporate banner Bowland Centers of Southwest Florida. They have been in the business for 36 years.

While five of the Bowland centers are primarily league based, the two newest additions lean toward the family entertainment model. They are named Headpinz of Cape Coral, and Headpinz Fort Myers, which opened July 10. At the Bowland corporate office, they call them HPCC and HPFM.

HPCC is actually a re-build of a 24 lane center that Ciniello built, sold, and repurchased in 2009 for the purpose of trying his FEC concept. Pat and Lisa's son Marc was put in charge in his first time as a general manager. They took a completely traditional center, formerly called Friendship Lanes, and turned it into a new hybrid. League bowlers were not too happy when they got word of the change, but when the project was completed in 2014, they embraced the beautiful new facility.

In Fort Myers, the 50,000 square foot building is all new, and the centerpiece of the new center is lanes 1-4, called Old Time Alleys, vintage 1908. Pat got the idea from his involvement as Chairman of the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum for many years. When the museum was in St. Louis, it had old time alleys, and two of them were relocated to the new facility in Arlington, Texas. Pat loves the idea that bowling history is preserved, but he also thought there is a commercial application; thus, the duplication of the old time lanes in Florida for corporate parties and even kids field trips to learn some interesting history while having fun.

Of course, the rest of the new Fort Myers center is ultra modern, with every new amenity available, and an incredible food and beverage menu that includes such items as lamb chops and Chicken Cordon Bleu. It took six years of planning to complete the project, but according to Pat, it was worth the wait. To read the complete story, pick up a copy of the September International Bowling Industry Magazine.

Finally, we hope you enjoy reading about the Luci Doubles in this issue. In other places, you will probably see this event called the PBA PWBA Xtra Frame Striking Against Brest Cancer Mixed Doubles, but to CJ and I, it will always be the Luci Doubles, named in honor of one of the most incredible people we have ever known in bowling, our late friend Luci Bonneau.

We were proud to call Luci our friend for more than 20 years, and when she became a victim of breast cancer in 1999, it was devastating to everyone who was lucky enough to know and love her.

Luci was an outstanding Hall of Fame bowler with many titles including a couple of PWBA regionals, an accomplished coach, a wonderful mother, and an outstanding bowling center manager and proprietor.

When she passed away in October 1999, CJ and I met with Luci's dear friend Donna Conners, and we decided to re-name the PWBA mixed doubles event we had been operating for several years in Houston in her honor. We ran the first five "Luci Doubles," in 2000-2004 until the PWBA ceased operation, and since then, Donna's team has done an outstanding job growing the event with the help of sponsors like Storm and others.

This year, the event officially became a national professional tour stop for the PBA and the new PWBA; thus the new name and official national title status for winners Shannon O'Keefe and Bill O'Neill... but for us, and for every one of the players who remember Luci, it will forever be called "The Luci."

And every time we see anything about this special event, we will remember that beautiful person with a million dollar smile... our incredible friend Luci Bonneau.

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.

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