A Valentine’s Day Gift for the Bowling Industry

by Dave Williams

Valentine’s Day always brings back memories of 1986 for me, when AMF completed the most dynamic remodel of a bowling center in history, the beautiful AMF East Meadow Bowl on Long Island, just 30 miles from New York City.

Artist’s Rendition of AMF East Meadow Bowl: Robb/Stewart Design provided this conceptual offering which did not do justice to the final product… the opposite of the norm within the construction industry.

A Grand Affair: Bowling publications throughout the world documented the AMF East Meadow Bowl event with elaborate coverage, like this centerfold of photos in the National Bowlers Review.

The date was Friday, February 14th, 1986, and industry leaders from around the world had been invited to a private showing prior to the Public Grand Opening on February 15th. The invitation list was a Who’s Who of the bowling industry “movers and shakers” at that time.

AMF’s new Chairman of the Board, Irwin Jacobs, was on hand to welcome guests. He was accompanied by newly appointed Deputy Executive George Kaultner, who had been appointed by Jacobs to “shake up” the bowling products group, and bowling in general.

Among the more notable guests at the private showing were a bevy of Multi-Unit Bowling Information Group (MUBIG) members, including Bob Feuchter of American Recreation Centers, and Beverley Armstrong of Major League Bowling Corporation, two individuals that would become an important part of my life in later years.

As National Promotions Manager for AMF Leisureland Centers, the East Meadow project was a major part of my life for almost a year. I welcomed the opportunity to be a part of this renovation and incorporated many of the ideas that I had learned while traveling the globe for AMF during most of 1984 and 1985.

The project took on special significance as I realized the importance of East Meadow Bowl to their patrons. During the demolition and rebuilding of the center, the league bowlers never stopped! I remember one week when we actually removed the roof of the building, and the leagues did not reschedule their sessions. That is the definition of dedication, or insanity.

No corner was left unturned during the East Meadow transformation. For the first time in my life the artist’s renderings did not do justice to the final product. It was a testament to the dedication of Bruce Gobbi, President of the Bowling Center Division of AMF.

Mr. Gobbi was my immediate superior and mentor at AMF. He gave me so many opportunities to succeed that many within AMF referred to me as the fair haired boy, considered to be the next President upon Mr. Gobbi’s retirement.

Adjusted for inflation, the $1.4 million dollar project equates to $3,166,184.31 in 2018. That’s quite a monetary investment, and it meant everything to AMF, because construction of new bowling centers had peaked in 1965. By introducing a plan for existing centers to modernize, an entirely new revenue stream could be realized by AMF and others.

Another logical addition to the Grand Opening of AMF East Meadow Bowl was an appearance by professional bowler Dick Weber, who by this time I was using at least once a month for grand openings, clinics and special engagements. Dick credited my frequent use of him as AMF’s decision to bring him back to the AMF Staff of Champions in 1985, after a six year hiatus.

Paul Lane, Director of Marketing for the Bowling Products Group, suggested the addition of Southern California’s Cheryl Robinson to represent the distaff side of bowling, and it was immediately arranged.

All of the major New York newspapers and television networks were on hand for the festivities. With a budget of $40,000, I took advantage of every penny to make this an affair that would not be forgotten.

In addition to Weber and Robinson, we left no stone unturned as the following budget can attest:

  • Press Brunch prior to Saturday event – $1,000
  • Catering for Saturday main event – $7,500
  • Entertainment by “Vince Giordano and the Night Hawks” – $2,700 (a special elevated stage was constructed over 4 lanes, and allowed patrons to roll the ball under the stage… something that I would use on numerous occasions throughout my career)
  • Piano and other additional music during band breaks – $1,025
  • Le Clique (video and photographs during all events) – $10,000
  • Additional Press Photographer – $1,000
  • Lighting (interior, exterior search lights, sound system) – $1,700
  • Flowers (table arrangements, corsages) – $1,000
  • Professional Emcee Dean Anthony from WHLI Radio – $1,000
  • Dick Weber and Cheryl Robinson appearance – $3,000
  • Invitations and Press Kits – $6,000
  • Contingency – $4,075

Many others provided time and services at no charge, including my good friends at Seagram’s and Villa Banfi (Riunite Wines), the Chemical Bank, and The Rehabilitation Institute (TRI), our official charity for the event.

The rest, as they say, is history, with Weber throwing out the ceremonial “Gold Angle” first ball in a tuxedo at the Valentine’s Day event. It was a strike.