Despite rumors that a fitness studio or CVS would replace East Hampton Bowl, the owner recently learned that financing for a $2.5 million renovation of the lanes had come through.
Craig Patterson, who has owned the business with his wife for over 30 years, said on Monday that he plans to market the bowling alley as a rain-or-shine venue for fund-raisers. He is searching for a full-time employee to take on event planning and coordination, in addition to a staff that includes two managers who have spent 15 years there.
Employees’ nights and a new singles’ night have also started to draw different crowds, and Mr. Patterson has been aggressively marketing the lanes by offering two-for-one specials at local businesses and instituting a popular karaoke night on Fridays.
Some people may not know that that there is a fully functioning bar at East Hampton Bowl featuring draft beer specials, a pool table, a dartboard, and video games. With food available at the snack bar and space for a kitchen, which outside caterers used to set up, Mr. Patterson regularly opens the alley for soirées beyond small-scale children’s birthday parties. Recently he even hosted a wedding there for nearly 200 people.
Primarily, “the direction of the industry is towards the entertainment side of the game, as opposed to the sports side,” he said. Even so, there are still plenty of die-hard bowlers, many of whom come from as far away as Westhampton Beach, and many leagues meet on a monthly basis in a more casual setting.
The 16-lane alley, which was built in 1960, was bought by Mr. Patterson in the late 1970s. Since then it has undergone two major interior renovations, the most recent of which was in the mid-1990s. Lanes are resurfaced with a special bowling-specific resin annually, but a complete resurfacing will be done in the first phase of the project, to be completed by the Fourth of July. The alley will remain open, with one or two lanes closed at a time during the process.
The most exciting aspect of this phase, Mr. Patterson said, is computer technology that will include a touch-screen scoring system, flat-screen video monitors, and new games to keep the bowling interesting for children and adults. Adults will be able to incorporate poker into their scoring system, and huge monitors will eventually be installed above the lanes so that the names of advertisers or slide shows of children celebrating their birthdays can be displayed.
A point-of-sale system to be built directly into the touch-screens at each lane will allow bowlers to order food and drinks from the bar and snack bar and have it delivered directly to their lanes. Customers will be able to have everything tabulated and paid for with a credit card, so the many parents who leave their kids for an afternoon of bowling and video games can come in and pay the bill directly, without having to divvy out cash to their children.
Behind-the-scenes renovations are already in progress. A new roof, a heating and air-conditioning system, and pin-replacement infrastructure have been set up within the last five years. Newly refurbished lanes will have bumpers that automatically rise and disappear depending on whose turn it is to bowl.
Before dogs playing poker are removed from the bar wall or other aesthetic measures are taken, Mr. Patterson is hoping for feedback from his customers by way of forms handed out at the bowling alley or through the business’s Web site or Facebook page.
New balls, shoes, bathrooms, and locker rooms will eventually be part of the package. Aside from some minor landscaping upgrades, exterior changes appear to be further down the road, after Mr. Patterson works with the village planning board.
With a waiting list all day and night on rainy days in the summer and a strong local following, East Hampton Bowl attracts a wide variety of clients. Fishermen from Montauk and semianonymous billionaires — some of whom have their own lanes in basements at home — bowl alongside one another.
Ideally, Mr. Patterson said, “I would like it to feel like somebody’s living room, like an extension of their home.” But ultimately, “it has nothing to do with what I want, it’s what the customers want. It’s all about giving people multiple choices and opportunities for fun.”