These days, it is called “Bowlero-North Brunswick.” To most readers of Bowlers Journal International, it forever will be Carolier Lanes.
When plans to hold the 2016 USBC Masters at Carolier Lanes fell through last-minute following Bowlmor AMF’s (now Bowlero) purchase of Brunswick’s bowling centers in 2014, the development sent the PBA scrambling to find a new host for one of its premier majors. (Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis stepped up on short notice.) As Lyle Zikes reported in this October 2015 edition of his monthly BJI column, "Pro Bowling Insider," it turned out that the center was set to undergo renovations that would culminate with its rebranding as Bowlero North-Brunswick.
News that Carolier's rebranding as a Bowlero center were underway provided all the fodder the social network conspiracy theory brigade needed. Rumors spread across Facebook and elsewhere that Carolier Lanes, such a longtime PBA Tour host as to have become hallowed ground in the minds of many pro bowling fans, would become a place where designer cocktails, disco balls and throbbing Top-40 jams relegated the bowling to an afterthought. Last month's announcement that the center will host the 2020 PBA Playoffs finale put those suspicions to rest.
Anyone puzzled by Zikes’s suggestion that the renovations could “prove offensive to major tournament entities” simply was ignorant of Carolier’s history. Dick Weber won the New Jersey Open there in 1963. The center later hosted the PBA Johnny Petraglia Open from 1991 through 2001, then five consecutive U.S. Opens from 2005-2009, then again in 2011 and yet again in 2012, occasion of Pete Weber’s “Who do you think you are? I am!” moment. PBA Commissioner and CEO Tom Clark calls that his "favorite Carolier moment ... Not only the moment and everything leading up to it, but the historical nature of that record fifth U.S. Open for Pete."
The USBC Masters saw fields exceeding 400 entries in both 2013 and 2014 at Carolier.
No wonder PBA CEO Tom Clark says he is as excited to bring the 2020 PBA Playoffs finale there as he was to return the Tournament of Champions to Riviera Lanes. “I have Bowlero to thank for sensing my passion for the importance of those buildings in PBA history,” Clark said, adding that, "The PBA history in [Carolier], the likelihood of a great and passionate crowd, the location in New Jersey near New York City from a media standpoint and our familiarity with producing an event in that building were all factors" in discussions between the PBA and Bowlero.
The PBA’s return to North Brunswick will end the longest stretch of time the center has gone without hosting a PBA Tour event since the gap between the 1963 New Jersey Open and the 1991 Johnny Petraglia Open — a homecoming bound to add some historical value to next year’s playoffs finale.
Editor Gianmarc Manzione's column appears monthly in Bowlers Journal International. To subscribe now for much more of the industry's best coverage of bowling news and incisive instructional tips and analysis, go here: http://www.bowlersjournal.com/bowlers-journal-subscriptions/