New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bowlmor

I can't think of anything that seems more antithetical to Manhattan than bowling. Firstly, it has a definite suburban cache. I realize that bowling is a serious sport requiring skill and discipline, but growing up outside the city, bowling was an act of desperation for bored and frustrated teenagers - one of the few activities sanctioned by adults.
Also, bowling, like tennis, requires large amounts of space. In New York City space is a luxury and costly. Activities and usage of space always has to be considered and like every business in New York City usage is metered - to survive you need to know the cost in dollars per square foot per hour. Bowling is not a particularly profitable use of space, which is why you don't see many bowling alleys here - there are only four in the borough of Manhattan. They are typically low visibility, located off the beaten path like Chelsea Piers or on upper floors like Bowlmor.
Bowlmor is located at 110 University Place in the heart of the Village. Its bold bright signage can be easily overlooked competing with a plethora of other attractions and Union Square nearby.
I have been familiar with Bowlmor as long as I have lived in the city. It has been in business since 1938. Bowling was quite popular at one time in New York for 100 years, from the mid 1800s through the 1950s (Richard Nixon bowled there in 1955). The first lawn bowling grounds in the United States were built in downtown Manhattan (in an area still known as Bowling Green). But the familiar specter of rising rents and declining space put an end to many bowling alleys. Bowlmor is the only one remaining from those early days. However, it did go through its own near fatality. In 1997, Bowlmor was purchased and rescued by Tom Shannon who reinvented it as a trendy, chic nightclub operation. Their website uses words like sexy, naughty, tasty and cool to describe what is essentially a nightclub with bowling. The business occupies two entire floors with a total of 40,000 square feet and 42 lanes. It features glow-in-the-dark bowling, big screen video walls, a thumping sound system, a full service restaurant serving lane-side food and drinks and sports bar. They expanded in 2001 to a third floor with Pressure, a high end event space.
So, I finally decided to make a personal inspection. On my visit, I was welcomed and encouraged to take photos. There were several special private parties including a function for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The place was abuzz with balls, pins and drinks. Bowlmor has been visited by many celebrities, evidence of its place on the A-list. You can see a showcase of autographed bowling pins here ...

7 comments:

Terry B said...

Antithetical to Manhattan, perhaps, but not New York. Think of Bed-Stuy's own Ralph Kramden. Besides, hip Manhattanites love to play at having downmarket, working class roots. Hence the love of dive bars, diners and hot dog stands. And I'm not pointing fingers. I love those things too, in small doses. The ad agency I work for here in Chicago holds its holiday party at a bowling alley [albeit a fancypants one like this place]. When I worked in St. Louis, my agency there held an annual party in a much more real deal bowling alley, the oldest lanes west of the Mississippi.

YO said...

I just found your blog, and love it!!..because it has great pictures, and because its about a city I really love..Manhattan!!..Ive been there about ten times.

Wayne said...

I think I prefer Bowl-A-Rama for a name. We don't have as many bowling alleys as we once did and I haven't been in an alley for eons.

I wouldn't care for the thumping music.

Brian Dubé said...

Yo - thanks.
Terry - it is true that city people do find comfort playing their downmarket roots.

http://newyorkdailyphoto.com

Corey Templeton said...

Very neat! Maybe bowling can make a comeback in cities.

Anonymous said...

Yasser Arafat used to be an owner--or at least investor--in Bowlmor.

Kevin Walsh said...

I remember Bowlmor in the 1970s when I was in a league there-- a dump, as seedy as they come. They probably wouldn't let me in now.

www.forgotten-ny.com