Back in Blackpool

by Bob Johnson 0

Blackpool was voted England’s most popular seaside town of all-time in a consumer poll conducted last July. It beat out Brighton, Whitby, Bournemouth and Scarborough for that distinction.

But Blackpool, which sits on England’s west coast by the Irish Sea — about 30 miles north of Liverpool, which gave us The Beatles, and 40 miles northwest of Manchester, which gave us The Bee Gees — has seen better times.

In 1992, some 17 million people visited the resort city. In 2009, that number had dropped to 10 million — still significant, but not like the “glory years.” Besides the beach, the main attraction continues to be an annual after-summer lights festival known as “The Illuminations,” which brightens a six-mile stretch along the promenade with more than a million light bulbs.

The 66-day “Illuminations” festival will begin on Sept. 2 this year.

About five months before that, Blackpool will get a new attraction. Actually, to be more accurate, one of its old attractions will be brought back to life.

Garland Leisure Ltd. has purchased Superbowl, a 30-lane bowling center on Blackpool’s Market Street that shut down four years ago. The 30,000-sq.-ft. property is being refurbished, and is scheduled to re-open in April.

“With no other bowling centers currently operating in Blackpool, there is clearly significant potential to capitalize on the leisure needs of the local population,” said Grand Leisure’s Mehdi Afshar in a story that appeared in The Gazette, a local newspaper. Afshar also noted that the millions of annual visitors to the city would contribute to the customer pool.

Blackpool Council Leader Peter Callow was enthusiastic about the rebirth of Superbowl, noting, “We welcome any investment in Blackpool from the private sector, anything that will improve Blackpool’s offering further.”

Previously, Garland Leisure acquired 11 centers from AMF.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.