With the holidays approaching and children anxiously awaiting winter break, it’s that time of year when families plan their annual get-togethers.
While these social events typically take place at a family restaurant or the home of a loved one, a new location is sneaking onto the horizon as a popular holiday gathering spot — the bowling alley.
Alleys have traditionally been known as dark and dreary, but marketing toward a younger generation has allowed the lanes to reverse that image and become more family-friendly.
"People are celebrating and looking for a place for a gathering," Country Club Bowl general manager Amy Schutter said. "We do a lot of corporate parties and a lot of family parties."
Holiday parties are a huge boon to business, as even the larger bowling chains in the East Valley are feeling the force of the seasonal rush.
"Company parties, that’s where it picks up," AMF general manager Estelle McLellan said. "But if I had to say which we have more of, I would still probably say families."
"It’s a lot more familyoriented," Brunswick Lanes general manager Tim Brenden added. "Once school gets out, we get a lot of that."
Most lanes offer reduced prices and activities to attract families during the holidays.
Nightly events like "cosmic bowling" (which involves black lights illuminating the lanes, pins and various items throughout the lanes) and "rock n’ bowl" (with popular music accompanying the games) have become mainstays at local alleys due to their popularity with children and young adults.
"We do cosmic bowling on Saturday and Sunday, and then we also have a young adult version and a ‘College Night’ version," Brenden said. "We do a family New Year’s event. . . . Kids fill us up."
Other lanes, meanwhile, focus more on the atmosphere and making the lanes more inviting.
"We try to be more familyoriented, a little more personable with our clientele," said Schutter.
"We do great birthday parties and corporate parties," McLellan said.
"Serving food, helping set up, cleaning up. That way you can have a big party without having to worry about the clean-up at your own house."
Regardless of the means, though, the end result seems to be the same throughout the Valley: "Going bowling" no longer just refers to the multitude of college football bowl games this time of year.