The Future of Bowling - HeyDay Entertainment
Brad and Kari Little, along with their partners Trey and Tracy Bates, are the owners of the HeyDay Entertainment Center in Norman, Oklahoma. HeyDay is an incredible facility that went from a 17,000 square foot kids party center to a 41,000 foot building in 2014 that now has bowling and caters to all ages. It is a great example of where the bowling business is headed over the next decade and beyond.
We caught up with Brad and Kari during Bowl Expo 2015, and it gave us a chance to follow up on some of the things we talked about for a Bowling Industry Magazine story earlier that year.
BNN: We had the opportunity to visit your center a few months ago, and to say the least, we were extremely impressed with it; it was almost as if we had been transported into the future of bowling. It is absolutely beautiful. Tell us about it and your community.
Brad Little: Sure – we are from Central Oklahoma. Norman is just south of Oklahoma City and the home of the University of Oklahoma Sooners. We are actually right in the middle between Moore and Norman, so we are very involved in two of the sub- urban communities that
surround the big capital city.
BNN: And the Center?
BL: Our facility, HeyDay Entertainment, has been around for eight years, but eight months ago, we went through a huge expansion that took the build- ing from 17,000 square feet to 41,000. We have laser Tag, miniature golf, a bar and restaurant, a ropes course and game room, and now, after the expansion, we have 24 lanes of bowling on two floors. Now, the place truly does not even resemble what it was before – we totally transformed it, and in
the process, we have transformed our business from one that primarily served kids into one that also serves adults and entire families. We made a decision that we wanted to grow up and serve an older customer. We wanted to transform our base and get more into the corporate party business and other areas.
BNN: Has it worked?
BL: Beyond our wildest dreams. It was a very expensive expansion, but our revenue is now more than 400% above what it was prior to the change.
BNN: Wow. Who would have thought that adding bowling to an existing entertainment business could have that much impact?
BL: We did two years of research before we made the decision. We traveled all over the country – from Portland, Oregon to Raleigh, North Carolina and dozens of places in-between to visit centers that we wanted to emulate. We studied all of the numbers, put it all together, and eight months ago, it became a reality. I think one of the things that separates us from almost all other places is our upstairs Lounge, called Revolutions, is for adults only; you have to be
21 to be served. It has eight lanes of bowling, billiards, a bar and restaurant serving area with a balcony overlooking the downstairs lanes, and an outdoor patio overlooking the miniature golf course.
BNN: You told us when we visited your place that you actually had to close the business for eight weeks at the end of the expansion to get everything ready to launch the new business plan – that must have been a very scary period where you had to trust your architect and builders to get it done so you could re-open on the target date.
BL: It was. But we learned that if you always just do more of the same, it is kind of a letdown for customers, so we decided to be bold and take a chance, and so far it is paying off. There is no wow factor in staying the same, so we did close down to get better. It was painful a few times, but we knew it was the right thing to do. We have been very blessed and we are very pleased that it turned out so good.
BNN: Kari, we know that you are also very involved and deserve credit for the success because Brad and Trey couldn’t stop talking about how you and Tracy did so much during the remodel and since then. We should clarify that Trey and Tracy Bates are your business partners. They are not here at Expo, but they work with you every day in Oklahoma. Tell us about your role in the business Kari.
Kari Little: OK – Tracy and I spent a lot
of time during the remodeling doing things like picking our colors and furniture, new employee uniforms, and many other things. We want the customers to have a great time every time they come in, so we help any- where we are needed.
BL: Very understated.
BNN: We agree. When we talked be- fore, Brad and Tray couldn’t stop talking about how much you and Tracy help the business. They said they don’t know
how you find the time to do all that you do with the kids and everything else.
KL: It’s not just work for us. It is about the kids and the employees. We try to find ways for it to be fun for not just the customers, but for us and the great people who work at HeyDay.
BNN: What is your favorite part of the business?
KL: Getting to know the employees and their families.
BNN: Because you have such good people, you can get out to do things like attend Bowl Expo.
KL: Right. An example is that when we shut down for the remodeling, we had 48 employees, and now we have 150; but of the original 48, we only lost one. 47 of them came back to work after we re-opened.
BNN: That says a lot. Before we forget, did we mention your website? And what is the address? M
BL: It is HeyDayFun.com. We are very proud of our website. We just won an award for it. We spend a lot of time and money on it. This is the digital age, so it is a very important part of the business.
I also want to praise our employees. They keep us going every day, and we try to in- vest in them by having a great training pro- gram and a leadership program for the managers. We invest in them, because they are us. When people come into HeyDay, they may not meet us, so those employees are out front line, and we are fully committed to taking the time and resources to invest in them.
BNN: Well said. We also want to mention that the architect you chose for the re-build, who just happens to office in Moore, Oklahoma, is Shane LaBeth. He also did some work at the International Bowling Campus in Arlington and for the Round One centers who are expanding their chain from Japan to the USA. BL: Shane did a great job. He has a booth here at Expo. We didn’t have any experience in bowling, so we were very happy to find a guy from our own neighborhood who is one of the best in the world when it comes to bowling. We also rely on a lot of other bowling industry partners who are here at Expo, like Intercard, Brunswick, and Trainertainment. I was an attorney by trade, and Trey was in the Real Estate business, so we need good partners to guide us. They are now not only our partners, but our
BNN: We learned that Heyday is also known for good food, and does more than hold its own against the dozens of restaurants along Interstate
35 in your area.
KL: Yes it does. One of our best sellers is our Double Dave’s Pizza. It is the only Double Dave’s location in the area, and people come in just for that and the great burgers all the time.
BL: We are very proud of our menu. We have almost everything, and it is all fresh every day. Food and beverage was not just an afterthought in the expansion. We
spent a lot of time to make it a big part of the business.
BNN: Have there been any surprises?
. . . Anything that you did not anticipate? BL: When we first opened, we were pretty much overwhelmed for a couple of weekends, and we had to catch up. We got our hineys handed to us for a while, and we still can hardly believe the number of customers that come in on weekends; there’s sometimes a 2-3 hour wait for bowling. We did 66 parties the month after we opened, and we have never done more than
10 before. We had more parties the first quarter of this year than we had in any en- tire year before. That was the biggest surprise, but we got through it with help from people like Rick Heim and Beth Standlee who helped us find and train employees and set up systems.
BNN: It sounds like you have no regrets.
BL: None. We can talk about the revenue, which is almost four times what it was which is great, and we can look at the pay- roll, which means we give a lot of people jobs, which is great, but the bottom line is we still have to work hard every day. We don’t take anything for granted. You can’t just say one and done. That would be foolish. We just want to keep getting better. Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine. www.starsandstrikesbowling.com