Knuckleheads eatertainment center opens in Wisconsin Dells

Known for two highly successful Wisconsin Dells' attractions, the Waterman family hopes to strike it lucky again. Knuckleheads offers bowling like you've never seen it, plus a rollercoaster and more. Next door they've opened the largest restaurant in the state.

The $20-million, 115,000-square-foot Knuckleheads Bowling & Family Entertainment Center and Buffalo Phil's Grille have opened in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, adjoining the new Tanger Factory Outlet Center. White Hutchinson assisted the Waterman family, the owners, with concept and mix development and plans. The Watermans previously developed two other major Wisconsin Dells attractions, Noah's Ark Water Park and what is now the Great Wolf Lodge (originally the Black Wolf Lodge), located next door.

The 80,000-square-foot indoor family entertainment portion of Knuckleheads includes 24 bowling lanes with 12 large projection screens and 40 LCD monitors. The projection screens and monitors can be used for viewing jukebox music videos, sporting events and other shows. Adjoining the bowling is a multi-level electric go-kart track, a family rollercoaster, family Himalayan ride, other family rides, bumper cars, a 10-seat, 3-D projection ride theater, 125 redemption and arcade games and the Pumphouse Pizza café.

Buffalo Phil's Grille is a three-story, 35,000-square-foot eatery that seats more than 1,000 diners, making it the largest restaurant in Wisconsin. It is designed to match the decor of the nearby Tanger Outlet Center and Great Wolf Lodge and features copper ceilings, 12,000- to 22,000-pound red cedar beams harvested from the forests of British Columbia and a show kitchen where diners can watch cooks prepare food using rotisseries and a brick oven.

The restaurant's western theme is accented with more than 200 antique framed photos, a player piano, a full-sized stuffed buffalo and a three-story stone fireplace.

"I wanted to do something different," said Judy Waterman, who spent the last two years collecting western art for the restaurant. "I think we always try to (make it) real family friendly."

The construction project was a true family affair. Turk and Judy's son, Andy Waterman, and his company, Waterman Log Crafters, did much of the woodwork, including making 3-inch-thick pine tabletops and crafting some of the table legs from trunks of small cedar trees.

Turk Waterman also spent scores of hours shaping and finishing spindles used in railings throughout the restaurant and bowling center. All of that wood was harvested from his late grandfather's 120 acres in the town of Dell Prairie, about two miles away.

"Gramps left us a legacy," Turk Waterman said. "You can see his inheritance all over this place."

Part of the Knuckleheads Bowling & Family Entertainment Center uses the grandstand building of the former Wisconsin Dells Greyhound Park. The Watermans purchased it in 1998, two years after it closed and eight years after it opened.

Most entrees at Buffalo Phil's Grille range from $8 to $12, while amusement rides at Knuckleheads cost $3 to $6. Bowling is $3.50 per game during the week and $4.50 on the weekend. Instead of tickets for the rides, debit cards are used, which are also good at the restaurant are issued.

In a future issue, we hope to bring you photos of the facility.