One center's evolution from bowling center to community center
Shakopee Bowl is a story of survival and giving. Dave Johnson shows us that creating a diverse center for a community is an organic recipe for success. From bowling to wiffleball, and from T-ball to volleyball, he’s doing it all.
In 2018, Louisville Lanes in Shakopee, MN, was preparing to close its doors, just 48 hours from a new destiny of becoming extra warehouse space. That’s until Dave Johnson took a risky dive by purchasing both the bowling center and adjoining bar, creating Shakopee Bowl, also known as The Bowl.
The odds were against Dave: he had a background in home renovation, but nothing in bowling; he was buying a center that was ready to close shop; and the COVID lockdowns were just getting started.
He bonded with the community to generate revenue by setting up fundraisers: there was the Shakopee baseball team; a partnership with the fire department; and that was just the start. The Bowl and the Shakopee community generated tens of thousands of dollars for local charities. This cemented the strong foundation for the center in the hearts and minds of the town.
Against all obstacles, he’s managed to shine a new perspective on what’s possible when you think outside the lanes!
Building The Bowl
The center had evolved from a bowling center to a community center. Due to its central location between Shakopee and other neighboring towns, the center was bound to be a civic draw.
“I was always a baseball player. I think the fact that I’m ‘not a bowler’ allowed me to create something so much more,” says Dave. “We offer wiffle ball, T-ball, kickball, cornhole, and even volleyball. There are 87 TVs playing a myriad of sports. We took out six of our 24 lanes, leaving more room for dining tables and arcade games throughout the center. We’ve had so many guests come just to watch people play the fields that we recently expanded our outdoor patio around the entire building.”
That’s a lot to offer, but he’s stepped up to the plate. The Bowl isn’t done growing, either. They’re currently in the process of adding three new volleyball courts while sticking to the trend of going above and beyond. Dave and his wife love visiting Tampa, FL, so they knew how to create a sun-kissed vibe. They brought the decor for the patio and volleyball courts right from the Sunshine State, from the beach chairs to the tiki signage to the palm trees — all are from Florida!
Every weekend they host live music out on the patio, bringing in some of the best bands in Minneapolis for guests to enjoy while drinking local craft beers.
Leagues are Big Business
“We needed two wiffle ball fields. Building T-ball and all other leagues was relatively easy. The kids sign up because there’s nowhere else to go in Shakopee,” Dave explains. “The parks and rec fields were unkept, and the only coaching was by other kids rather than serious parents. There was a demand.”
Dave continues, “For wiffle ball, a neutral seltzer sponsors the league shirts. Each week, we have 36 kids signed up. That’s 36 moms, dads, siblings, and grandparents. We probably get more outdoor sporting business from May to August than we do bowling!”
The Bowl offers 8- to 18-week leagues, with some having cash prizes. Strong community support means there isn’t much marketing involved besides posters inside the center and some Facebook ads right before leagues start.
The Big Question of Staffing!
We asked Dave how he possibly staffs all this. “I’m really fortunate. We started with 19 employees, now we have 97. Our clientele is amazing. The servers and bartenders do very well. We’re the place to be; people want to work for us. When parents ask kids where they want to eat, they want to eat at The Bowl!”
#WhereInTheWorld is The Bowl?
Everyone loves a branded beer koozie, but the guests of The Bowl aren’t your average koozie fans. The Bowl gives out koozies and encourages guests to post pictures with the hashtag #whereintheworldisthebowl on their social media accounts. Dave says, “We have guests posting their travels all around the world, with our koozie wrapped around a beer. We get tagged in pictures from sports stadiums across the country, folks in front of the Eiffel Tower, in front of skyscrapers in Dubai. People love the koozies!”
The five-year transition from Louisville Lanes to The Bowl showcases how there’s more than one right way to run a business. Dave’s time nurturing community support has certainly paid off for his center and the people living in it. Fundraising for charities, coaching youth, good music, and activities that make everyone feel included are all hallmarks of a healthy community.