Orlando’s bowling future

by Bob Johnson 0

There are two main tourist thoroughfares in the Orlando area: International Drive, which winds past the giant Orange County Convention Center, and U.S. Highway 192, east of Disney World and Interstate 4.

Generally speaking, the tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants along International Drive have fared reasonably well during the ongoing recession. But it has been a different story for the businesses that straddle Highway 192, many of which are struggling to survive. Early this year, an effort to “brand” the area was initiated by a number of the local business people.

“For too long, we have lived off the crumbs of what Walt Disney World left us,” Mark Brisson, marketing director for Fun Spot of Florida Inc., told the Orlando Sentinel. “We need to make this area unique.”

As those efforts continue, the Orlando Business Journal reports that the former site of the Water Mania water park and motel — part of the Shoppes of Celebration mixed-use development — could be transformed into a $3 million bowling center and arcade.

Originally, that 6.3-acre plot was earmarked for a 294-room hotel/condominium complex, but Osceola County officials recently granted approval to change the permit category to entertainment/office.

Meanwhile, discussions continue about constructing a county sports complex that would include a 50,000-sq.-ft. indoor facility. However, bowling lanes were not mentioned as part of that complex’s mix of sports venues. Last year, the plug was pulled on plans to build a 100-lane bowling facility on the grounds of Walt Disney World Resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports.

However, at the recent International Bowl Expo in Las Vegas, one BPAA official mentioned that there’s still a possibility that a massive bowling facility — large enough to host the annual national tournaments of the USBC — could be constructed in the Orlando area, presumably by an independent business entity.

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.