Maintenance costs keep rolling along


August 06, 1993|By DON VITEK

In just a few weeks the bowling season will begin. It's time to dig the equipment out of the closet and head for the nearest bowling center.

It's time to sign up for the old league and to start complaining about the price of bowling.

It happens every September. The price of bowling is usually a little higher than it was the year before. That the price of everything else has gone up doesn't seem to deter the complainers.

You still think bowling is too expensive? Buy a stamp, a pizza or a home.

The U.S. Consumer Price Index for the 1980-1990 period says the price of postage stamps jumped 93 percent in that period, a slice of pizza 137 percent, public college tuition 64 percent, a night out at the movies increased 62 percent and an average-sized home 87 percent.

Bowling increased in that 10-year period only 33 percent.

Let's discuss the expense that your neighborhood bowling center encounters.

"Sure, my expenses keep rising," said Joe Rineer, proprietor of Mount Airy duckpin lanes. "So does the expense of every bowling center . . . maintenance, pins, beverages, food, employees' salaries, it all keeps going up. That's the world we live in now.

"We just have to shut down completely once a year. About every other year it's really a major expense getting the lanes in tiptop condition. They [that's the Dorrance & Sons company of Howard County] have to repair and resurface and sometimes cut down the lanes. It's a major operation."

Every year every bowling establishment has to be worked on. If it isn't done every year, then really major problems surface.

"This year the cost per lane was approximately $700," Rineer said. "Part of that cost is just the regular cost of doing business, but, unfortunately, some of that cost is caused by the bowlers who loft the ball halfway down the lane. That causes major damage."

Rineer's center has 12 duckpin lanes, and each lane has to receive the same tender care.

* Each lane has to be inspected for bad boards. The normal wear and tear of a season of bowling means that boards on the all the lanes must be inspected and bad boards torn out.

* Channels have to inspected, bad portions ripped out in complete sections and replaced.

* After the boards are replaced, a drum sander strips the finish from the lanes, down to the bare wood. Then a super sander cuts down the wood of the lane. Then the lane is sandpapered, then buffed.

* The lanes are cleaned and vacuumed. A base cost of epoxy is put down, and the base is screened.

* Lanes then are cleaned with towels, by hand, to make sure that dirt and residue is removed. A resin top coat is applied.

* The same treatment is given to the approaches, but the last coat applied is different; it allows the bowling shoe to slide.

And occasionally the rubber side boards in the pits have to be replaced.

And the house bowling balls and rental shoes have to be refurbished or replaced (a major expense).

"Each center uses the finish on its lanes that it has found to be the best for maintaining a good lane condition and also the best for a good scoring condition," Rineer said.

"As I've said before, a lot of the above expenses are the normal cost of running a bowling center, but every time that someone kicks the equipment or lofts a ball the cost of bowling increases down the line."

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