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Picture This, November 2012 — Picking up a split

 Picking up a split

A retrofit bowling alley takes aim at attracting serious bowlers as well as the nightlife crowd.

The number in the name — 10 Park Lanes — is significant. There are 10 pins in a frame, 10 frames in a game. But on the sign outside it reads more like an address, which is appropriate considering it was the site of the bowling alley — 2.2 acres on one of the hippest streets in Charlotte — that attracted new owner Adam Williams. But location alone wouldn’t pull in the crowds prowling Montford Drive on weekends. The place needed retrofitting.

Built in 1960, it was bought in the early ’80s by George Pappas, a Charlotte native and one of the Professional Bowling Association’s 50 Greatest Players. It became a bowlers’ bowling alley, generating most of its revenue from league fees. “If I came here on a Friday night, it would be 95% bowlers here for league bowling,” Williams says. “There would be no music. It would be serious.” Over the years, modish bars and restaurants popped up nearby, making Montford a popular hangout. Williams, a commercial real-estate broker, and a few investors saw the then George Pappas Park Lanes as 30,000 square feet of underutilized space. They sought just the bar and restaurant, but Pappas wanted to sell everything. Williams and his ownership group, Montford Bowling Partners LLC, bought it in April 2011.

The renovation lasted 10 months and returned the building’s decor to its original era. Metal fins frame the new patio and prints of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art line the walls. Williams scoured the Internet and traveled to Philadelphia and London, scouting bowling alleys that had undergone makeovers. And it was more than cosmetic. Electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems were replaced. He won’t say what it cost to buy and renovate the place.

“There was a lot of worrying while we were building it, that we had turned our backs on league bowlers, but when we finished everyone was pleased.” Pappas, 65, still rolls there every Tuesday. But 10 Park Lanes has started striking with Montford’s swanky set. It hired an executive chef and a general manager and now offers finer food and craft brews. “On Friday and Saturday, only about 40% of the people here are actually bowling.” It has roughly 60 employees, says a spokeswoman, up from about 15 before they bought it, due primarily to increased waitstaff. Williams won’t release revenue but says it exceeds his pro-forma numbers. He does acknowledge that it’s “significant.”

— Spencer Campbell