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Bowling as a third place

I recently had some email exchanges with Joe Schumacker, one the bowling industry’s most respected, knowledgeable and insightful operators. Joe owns SpareZ in Davie, Florida.

Joe was at first commenting on our recent Leisure eNewsletter article The importance of food and beverage and some discussion about it that had taken place in a Linkedin group. Joe’s comment was, “I am surprised that anyone would not recognize the power of F&B in an LBE [location-based entertainment].”

Joe then went on to point out that for decades bowling centers were third places for league bowlers who came on a weekly basis. The concept of the third place was first written about by Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book The Great Good Places, a classic in the sociological literature on social and cultural geography of America. In his book Oldenburg describes third places as public places where people gather outside their home (1st place) and their work (2nd place) to hang out simply for the social pleasures of good company and lively conversations.

Joe went on to say; “In the case of league bowling it [the third place] actually became a negative where the customer bonded with other like kind customers to complain about the business. They kept coming to the center if no other reason than to complain some more. In its worst form I referred to this condition as ‘chronic league bowling fatigue syndrome.’ I do believe however that we can nurture the “third place’ mindset [for today’s open play customer] without the dysfunction brought on by league bowling.”

Joe has a great point. Contemporary bowling centers as well as other types of LBEs can have great success if they become third places for regular customers (non-league), as that is what will create a loyal and repeat customer base and positive word-of-mouth.

About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 31-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, has worked for over 600 clients in 37 countries throughout the world. Projects the company has designed and produced have won seventeen 1st place awards. Randy is considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on feasibility, brand development, design and production of leisure experience destinations including entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, agritainment/agritourism, play and leisure facilities.

Randy was featured on the Food Network's Unwrapped television show as an eatertainment expert, quoted as an entertainment/edutainment center expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and Time magazine and received recognition for family-friendly designs by Pizza Today magazine. One of the company's projects was featured as an example of an edutainment project in the book The Experience Economy. Numerous national newspapers have interviewed him as an expert on shopping center and mall entertainment and retail-tainment.

Randy is a graduate of New York University. Prior to repositioning the company in 1989 to work exclusively in the leisure and learning industry, White Hutchinson was active in the retail/commercial real estate industry as a real estate consultancy specializing in workouts/turnarounds of commercial projects. In the late 1960s to early 1980s, Randy managed a diversified real estate development company that developed, owned and managed over 2.0 million square feet of shopping centers and mixed-use projects and 2,000 acres of residential subdivisions. Randy has held the designations of CSM (Certified Shopping Center Manager) and Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He has authored over 150 articles that have been published in over 40 leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker and keynoter at over 40 different conventions and trade groups.

Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and posts on Twitter and Linkedin.

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