Bowling Alleys Strike it Rich by Adding Acoustic Treatment

In recent years, savvy bowling establishment operators are finding success by combining the fun and fellowship of bowling with fine quality food and drink. Some even go as far as creating a night club atmosphere. This entrepreneurial combination is proving to be successful in attracting a new and diverse clientele that can include corporate team building, bachelor and bachelorette parties, office parties and birthdays. With plenty of entertainment options on hand, attendees tend to stay longer, spend more money and generate greater revenues for the bowling alley.

highrollers-bandstageOften times, these events happen concurrently. At one end of the hall there may be a party going on, in the middle of the hall a café, and at the other end of the hall – a makeup game from a house-league tournament. Comfortably housing these very separate facilities, or “micro-venues”, into one can seem like an overwhelming logistical task, but if you examine the situation, the problem is in fact much easier to manage than one would think. Creating ‘the feel’ of separate rooms or zones requires a physical delineation of sorts and control over noise spilling from one area to the other. The delineation is usually achieved by creating separate seating areas with planters and so on. Controlling sound is done by mounting absorptive acoustic panels on the wall surfaces and suspending acoustic clouds from the ceiling.

By strategically placing acoustic panels throughout the venue, the excitement from a strike can remain in the bowling area while the DJ or live music will not overwhelm the room. We have all been in restaurants where you cannot sustain a conversation across the table. The same applies here.  By controlling the reverberation time (RT) in the room and bringing it down to an acceptable level, multiple events can occur simultaneously without hampering communication. 

The image shown here is a recent installation at the High Rollers bowling alley in Banff, Alberta. This facility combines a microbrew pub, casual fine dining, DJ and live entertainment, as well as traditional bowling. Owner-operator Stavros Karlos, working with AV integrator Digital Lifestyles of Calgary, chose Primacoustic Nimbus Clouds™ suspended above the bowling lanes to absorb the sound energy from the strikes and lower the overall reverberation time in the room. Upon completion, the response from management and staff was nothing short of ecstatic. Not only did it create the intended zones, it also made it easier for staff to speak with patrons and allow those in the restaurant to enjoy a quiet conversation.

Similarly, we are working on an interesting project in Las Vegas, New Mexico. A local restaurateur, who also happens to own a very successful pizzeria, has purchased a wonderful building in the town’s heritage square. As part of an effort to stimulate growth in this part of town he is building a three lane bowling alley and within, a new high-end pizzeria and bar. Challenged by retaining the historical integrity of the venue and creating a social meeting place (which is seriously lacking in this small town) the owner is acutely aware that containing the noise from the bowling lanes and not having the sound energy overrun the open plan restaurant will be crucial to its’ success.

A common concern is how the acoustic panels will integrate with the existing aesthetics of the facility. Most acoustic panels come in basic stock colors. In this case, the owner wants to accentuate the historical value of the installation by printing historic images of the old town onto Primacoustic Paintable™ panels. As the name suggests, these unique panels can of course be painted, but you can also take the panel to any flat-bed printing facility and transfer digital images directly onto the surface. This essentially turns an acoustic panel into art.

One of the other benefits of acoustically treating a bowling alley is the well-being for employees and patrons alike. Exposure to loud noise over an extended period has been proven to cause stress, dilute productivity, impede communication and reduce concentration. It is also a contributor to workplace accidents and injuries due to the inability to hear instructions or be warned of impending danger. Prolonged exposure to excessive sound pressure can also cause permanent hearing damage. In 1981, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented regulations to protect all workers in general industry and mandated all employers to implement a Hearing Conservation Program. During a typical work shift, OSHA allows a maximum of 8 hours of exposure to 90 dBA of sound pressure and only 2 hours of exposure to 100 dBA. With the reduction of even a few decibels, the negative impact to hearing is reduced considerably, communication is enhanced and noise-related vexation is greatly diluted. This not only improves the working environment, but patrons will also enjoy a calmer and more pleasing atmosphere.

As operators look for new ways to increase revenues, diversifying the appeal and scope of their business is an excellent way to attract and retain customers. Acoustic treatment is a cost-effective and crucial component that should be addressed in the planning stage of venue development along with aesthetics and the general feel of the room.