Talk About A Dream… Try To Make It Real

by Dave Williams

For the past couple of years I have enjoyed researching and updating all of the new and remodeled bowling centers happening all across the United States. From areas as cosmopolitan as New York, to those as remote as Temecula, the number of sites participating is a true renaissance of the game.

So it is with little wonder that when I heard about the remodeling of Asbury Lanes, in the New Jersey shore town of Asbury Park, featuring special guest Bruce Springsteen at the Grand Reopening, I became quite interested.

The distance from my home in Edison, New Jersey, to Asbury Park is about 35 miles, so I contacted former California Bowling News editor Bob Johnson, who now heads Bowling Center Management (BCM) Magazine, to see if he might be interested in an article about the remodeled Asbury Lanes.

Johnson got together with Gianmarc Manzione, editor of Bowlers Journal International (BJI), and the two decided that the feature would be more well suited to the 34th BJI Architecture and Design Awards issue slated for November.

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the remodel was being funded by iStar, a publicly held company that had purchased Asbury Lanes, and was also instrumental in the acquisition of 58 bowling centers from Brunswick for the Bowlmor AMF chain.

As I eagerly awaited the grand reopening date, I contacted iStar and gained some information and high resolution photos from Mara Weiss, Senior Account Executive for NJF Public Relations, that would assist me in the formation of an article.

Mara had relayed to me that the center had become a punk rock venue near the turn of the century, with live music acts performing over the top of the bowling lanes on a makeshift wooden stage. I remember younger friends of mine, a troop of employees and friends at Starbuck’s Coffee, that on occasion would ask me to accompany them to the venerable site in those years.

Then the music died in 2015, with the closure of Asbury Lanes. The assumption was that the lanes would be razed and replaced with the usual condominiums or a shopping mall. But iStar’s CEO, Jay Sugarman, had a different plan.

In fact, Sugarman could be the “white knight” that bowling has been looking for the past few decades. He’s a graduate of Princeton, where he was nominated for valedictorian and received the Paul Volcker Award in Economics. He went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Along the way he worked for some of the most powerful names in the world of finance, including the private investment funds of the Burden, Vanderbilt and Ziff families. Oh, and did I tell you, he happens to be a passionate bowler?

As fate would have it, I never made it to the Grand Reopening of Asbury Lanes on Monday, June 18th, 2018, as my back and sciatica reminded me of their importance in my life and well being, and I was bedridden for a two week period.

But the aforementioned Bob Johnson and Gianmarc Manzione handled the affair quite nicely with their feature articles in the August 2018 issue of Bowling Center Management, and the November 2018 issue of Bowlers Journal International.

Bruce Springsteen summed up the Grand Reopening in a June issue of Variety, when he remarked, “I never thought I’d live to see the day when it came back to life in such a vibrant and strong fashion. It could easily have become a mini-mall or a wall of condos but it didn’t, and there’s still a place there; it’s still unique in its own right.”

Who knows… maybe we will see a new name in Bruce Springsteen’s greatest hits of all time? He could call it Asbury Park Lanes. I’m sure that the owners would not object.

Bruce Springsteen on Stage at Asbury Lanes – Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.

Multiple bars serve the patrons of Asbury Lanes, under a cascading show of laser lights. Photo by Nikolas Koenig.

A red, white and blue U.S. flag, created from 273 used bowling balls, is suspended above one of the bars. Earthquakes of high magnitude are not common in New Jersey! Photo by Nikolas Koenig.