Bowling alleys have never been known for being quiet, but King’s Lanes just got even more audible.
A recent renovation of the arcade area brought all the bells and whistles.
And rings and beeps and sirens and MIDI tones.
The new arcade occupies a larger, open space that is brightly lit, as opposed to the closed-off, dim room it replaced.
Carter Olson, general manager of King’s Lanes, said the project was about a year-and-a-half in the making, although work began May 1 and was open to the public by Aug. 8.
That’s not to say there wasn’t an extensive remodel of more than just one small room.
“There used to be a service bar (where the arcade is now). We decided to take the service bar completely out, and we took the ceiling out. ... The current arcade is attached to an old storage room that actually used to be a nursery when this place first opened,” Olson said.
That room has since been turned into a party rooms for kids’ birthday parties. A hole was cut into the wall to allow people access to the arcade from the party rooms, which will be included in birthday party packages starting Nov. 1.
“And we added, of course, a (ticket) redemption area, which for a center our size is quite extensive. We did have a bowling pro shop in that space, where a gentleman sold balls and shoes and did some work, but we relocated him and did a little construction to move him to where my office was,” Olson said.
Internet capabilities in the arcade area also were added to wirelessly connect all of the games to an interior system at King’s.
That has to do with the new system of paying for games and redeeming tickets. Long gone are the days of quarters and tokens and armfuls of tickets to redeem.
“Essentially what you’re doing is buying a card and putting credits on it, then just swiping it on the games. The games range from three credits per play to eight credits per play. And, if you should win tickets on the games — a lot of games are redemption games where you’re awarded tickets for playing — those go on the card as well,” Olson said.
The system automatically knows to add the tickets to a card, since everything is connected — the redemption, the credits and the swipers on the games.
The games themselves were hand-picked by a consultant out of New Jersey who has been in the arcade business since the 1980s. Olson said the reaction to the new arcade setup has been phenomenal, and there haven’t been any negative comments overall on the games or the pricing.
“The most-played game is Whack n Win! Then there’s two we hear a lot of yelling and screaming — in fun — and that’s the Cruis’n Blast game, which is a race game, and Connect 4 Basketball. Connect 4 Basketball is within a few years new to the business, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s very competitive,” Olson said.
Olson said he has noticed a lot more excitement with his customers since the new arcade opened. Even customers who have been coming to King’s for years are impressed and comment on the renovation.
The arcade does benefit both the bowling alley and the theater — both of which are owned by CEC Theatres, Olson said.
“If somebody's not from here and they’re staying at a hotel and ask someone what to do, well King’s and the theater have movies, an arcade with redemption, bowling, a sports bar. We are a one-entertainment stop in town, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. We try to make it a great experience,” he said.
The arcade itself will create new opportunities for birthday packages, which, in turn, are going to be good for business and for the family environment King’s is working to create, Olson said.
“It’s a bigger picture thing, too. Kids start coming here earlier, they get more involved in bowling. That’s a big thing for us as well, trying to get more youth involved in bowling. It’s a sport you can play your whole life,” Olson said.
He said CEC wants to continue improving both businesses.
“The renovation is the biggest investment that CEC made since they bought this place. ... It was a huge investment. When CEC purchased us in 2008, within six months they had done half a million dollars in improvements to the place, and this is probably going to end up being somewhere near that.
“So they take it very seriously, and it’s a commitment to Norfolk as well.”