How to Start a Bowling Alley & Skating Rink Business

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Starting a roller skating rink and bowling alley business is a steep challenge, and can be financially risky for even a well-prepared entrepreneur. It is best if you have some experience working in and/or running a bowling alley or roller skating rink before you jump in. You need a lot of preparation, but the rewards are great if you can make your business succeed.

Things You'll Need

  • Building
  • Startup capital

Choose a location, and visit that area to find out what the demographics are like. Find an area with a strong population of families, or an area with at least one college nearby. Also determine what your competition will be. In a big city, there are many things competing for attention, and you will have to carve out your share of the market. In a small town, even one other similar attraction is a kiss of death unless you can offer something above and beyond. It is ideal to choose a smallish town with no other competing entertainment for your first startup.

Formulate a business plan detailing what you expect to spend in your operations, what you expect to earn, your marketing plan, and your demographic, locally. You can find a sample business plan in the Resources section. It is especially important to hire a professional to write your business plan unless you are willing to do some serious reading and research.

Contact your city government to find out what information you need to obtain a business license. This will vary from city to city and within different states, but you will need the license before you can obtain bank funding in most cases.

Prepare yourself with a good pitch, your license, and your business plan, then approach a bank or private investors for funding. Be patient. You may need to approach multiple sources, especially in a down economy.

Secure a building for your rink and alley. You will need at least 50,000 square feet, and probably more to be as effective as possible. Also consider room for other small attractions, like pool tables, arcade games, food service, and novelty items. Do not forget to check zoning for any potential building. Location is extremely important. Your building should be zoned correctly, and should also be near places where your customers congregate, like shopping centers, schools, or even suburbs in some cases.

Hire a contractor to install your skate floors and bowling lanes, build counters, install lighting and sound systems, and otherwise renovate your space. It is important to heed your contractor's suggestions in your planning, as his experience probably outweighs yours, even if his vision differs. This is also the ideal time to hire your first employees, who will begin training, cleaning up, and stocking things like skates, balls, and novelty items.

Plan an opening celebration, launch a website, and get word out to the community. You need to draw positive attention to your rink/alleys, so advertise for a free skate day, a free game of bowling with skate admission, discounted games, or other opening promotions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Listen to customer suggestions and complaints, and take them seriously. A coat of paint goes a long way. Themed centers with fun and exciting murals tend to have more visual appeal than a plain center, and draw more customers who like the "cool" vibe. Subscribe to trade magazines like Rinksider for roller skating rinks for immensely valuable advice and information.

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