Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kingpin Lanes -- Good, clean, expensive fun

My wife, daughter, and I went to Kingpin Lanes, the new bowling alley in J-Town to take a look around and bowl a few frames. The lanes are laid out more like a theatre than the bowling alleys of old. Noticibly absent is the smell of smoke, and the bright colors of dayglow balls, background paintings, and the brightly lit lanes.

Unfortunately, the designer of the lanes didn't make a good first impression with the layout to rent a lane and shoes. Everyone gets corralled to one point to make their payment. As such, there was a long line the Friday afternoon we went. Since you pay for your bowling AND get your shoes in the same place, there is a bottleneck as people trying to get shoes hold up people trying to pay. It didn't help that the girl behind the counter looked like she'd rather be having a root canal than working.

Another bad impression is the price. Granted, it's been a long time since I bowled a game, but $3.75 for a game and $3.50 for shoes seems more than a bit pricy to me. The family of four in front of me paid $39.50 to play. While this may be in line with a trip to a game or other occasional family entertainment, it doesn't necessarily make for something you want to do every week. Oddly, the arcade style lanes for little kids are even more expensive, at four dollars a game. Plus, since it didn't make change, we had to wait to get $1 bills to play it. My daughter had fun, but still wanted to go again after an hour of playing and $12 out of my wallet.

Concessions were also pricy, with sodas running in the $3 range, and other food more in line with a movie theatre than your bowling alleys of old.

The lanes themselves are very nice. When you walk in the entrance, the lanes split off to the left and the right against the side walls. It appears to be AMF lanes with Qubica bowling systems. Unlike lanes of old, the lanes are not below the spectator seating, but rather on the same level. It was a bit heartbreaking not to see a scoring table, and to see that there wasn't anything to distinguish the bowler seating from the regular seating. And call me old fashioned, but part of the enjoyment of bowling is scoring your own game, not relying on some videogame system to do it for you. The keyboards for these systems are easy to use and look cool with their odd shape and dayglow colors, but their flimsy plastic and less than sturdy looking design seem to be inviting trouble for a type of business not known for a high level of upkeep.

The crowd the night we went was decidedly kid friendly, with lots of yuppie looking parents and Catholic school grade schoolers (lots of St. (insert Saint Here) School shirts in the crowd). It appeared to be non-smoking, which is one tradition I'm glad to see broken. And my wife and I had a lot of fun, even if we realized how out of shape we were the next day.

Overall, I recommend King Pin Lanes. It's clean, friendly (with the exception of the counter girl), and although a bit pricy, good for occasional family fun. I don't think it will have anyone missing J-Town Lanes.

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