Bowling: Synthetic enhancements for Hobart Lanes
By Anthony Nasella Post-Tribune correspondent August 28, 2012 10:20PM
Rob Tucker, owner of Hobart Lanes, has made several major improvements to his 16-lane center headed into this season. | Steve T. Gorches~Post-Tribune
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:28AM
It’s no secret that the challenging economy has affected many bowling centers’ profitability in the region and caused some proprietors to consider upgrading their facilities to draw new customers and keep present ones happy.
Hobart Lanes owner Rob Tucker did just that over the summer, disposing of the wooden lanes which were in the center for 50 years and replacing them with new, synthetic lanes.
The result is definitely evident esthetically. But more importantly for Tucker is the upgrade in the number of leagues which have signed up compared to a year ago.
“We’ve got four new leagues that have joined us for this year, so we can only assume that the new lanes had a lot to do with that,” said Tucker, who has owned Hobart Lanes for 20 years. “I just picked up four new teams on Sunday, so that’s a good sign, too.”
Tucker said he started considering new lanes last summer. After receiving the financing this year, Tucker closed the center from June 18 to 27 for the lanes — Brunswick Pro Lanes — to be installed.
“They’re the same brand that Olympia Lanes has,” he said, referring to the 40-lane center in north Hammond. “We might have an upgraded version since Olympia has had their lanes for a while. They look fantastic. They have a lifetime warranty, which is really nice. We just have to oil the lanes and keep them clean.”
The company Tucker contracted was Lane Low out of Illinois, which had been doing the maintenance on Hobart’s wooden lanes for years.
“They have done a great job over the years for us,” he said. “They had previous experience with these types of lanes. Basically, however, they put themselves out of their annual job of maintaining our wooden lanes because the new lanes are maintenance-free.”
To up the ante for the league and recreation bowler, Tucker has a promotion in place in which he’ll pay $300 dollars for the first bowler to shoot a 300 game and roll an 800 series. The only catch is, it can’t be the same person.
Tucker said he almost had a winner the first night.
“Three leagues have bowled so far since we started the promotion,” he said. “Just last Thursday, our best league, with the bowlers who probably have the best chance, we had three different bowlers who had the first nine strikes.
“One of them had the first 11 (Geoff Fox) and left a solid eight pin. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Tucker is happy about the positive feedback that he’s been receiving from his customers — which is very important given that Hobart Lanes is based in an area with other thriving bowling centers such as Camelot Bowl in Portage (two miles to the east), Cressmoor Lanes in Hobart (one mile to the west) and Ray’s Lanes in Lake Station (two miles to the north).
“We’re hoping this is a new start for us,” he said. “The bowling industry has been through some tough times in recent years like a lot of other businesses. So hopefully we can now better compete and thrive with the new lanes.”
In addition to the lanes, Tucker also added new larger flat-screen scoring monitors, as well as new flat-screen TVs on the concourse and in the bar.