Kegel CEO, Chris Chartrand, had had enough of the carpet in the Kegel Training Center.
“We had carpet on the walls, OK?” He joked. “We were looking a little Brady Bunch-ish. Kind of the old-school look.”
About $200,000 later, Chartrand has addressed the carpet issue. And a whole lot more.
“We covered that carpet up, applied a fresh paint job, replaced the masking units,” Chartrand said. “We now have wood floors in the settee area and in the pro shop, all the furniture is new, and we added a lounge area with TVs and couches over to the side because our customers might come with relatives or their parents might come with kids, and they are here all day.”
What began as an unease with an aging carpet steamrolled into a wholesale renovation of the facility, inside and out, décor and technology, that Chartrand is excited to present in Kegel’s “Grand Re-Opening" weekend, which will be highlighted by a "Customer Appreciation Day" on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Customer Appreciation Day will be open to the public and feature presentations about Kegel Training Center. Those who register to attend the Saturday event are invited to register to bowl on the lanes and check out some of the facility's new technology.
“We had the new ownership transition this year and I just went to the new owners and said, ‘You know, it’s been 13 years, and I think it’s really time for us to do it right. Rather than just put new carpet in, we really should consider giving the place a nice, fresh facelift,” Chartrand explained, alluding to the Mitchell family, who assumed sole ownership in the company in January when Linda Davis, wife of Kegel founder, John Davis, redeemed her share of ownership in Kegel. The Mitchell family has held a minority interest in the company since 2003.
“For the new owner, it came down to what the purpose of the training center really is in our business,” Chartrand added. “We don’t operate this business for profit motivations; that’s not what it’s about for us. I mean, it holds its own, but it really serves as a brand builder for Kegel, to establish ourselves as more in the industry than just lane maintenance. And since we’re a leader in the industry, we should have a look that is commensurate with being at the forefront of things. It’s hard to maintain that if we were looking a little dated.”
Chartrand credited Studio 41B for their help updating the look and feel of the training center.
For Chartrand, a look that is commensurate with being at the forefront of things involves much more than switching out carpets and adding couches. On the technology side, all coaching camera stations have been replaced with new, extremely high-resolution cameras that can provide far more rich and detailed data and functionality than ever before, including super slow-motion analysis. Kegel also is rolling out a new technology called the Specto coaching system.
“CATS has these sensors mounted on the lane that capture the target stuff up front, the break point, and going into the pins, but Specto uses Lidar technology which is similar to the technology they’re using in self-driving cars,” Chartrand explained. “One sensor is scanning constantly, and one sensor can scan up to six lanes, and it’s actually measuring every six inches.
“CATS captured five spots and it would draw a line between the points it captured, but those were just calculations; they were not exact measurements. The Specto system is actually measuring where the ball is and getting readings every six inches, so it’s like having 120 CATS sensors per lane. And since one sensor does six lanes, that sensor is delivering the equivalent of 720 CATS sensors. So, it’s capturing much more data.
“That’s the hardware side of it, but Specto’s software actually measures skid, hook and roll. So when the line is drawn on the software, the line is three different colors to represent when the ball’s in the skid phase versus the hook phase and the hook phase versus the roll phase. For the first time ever, we’re also measuring where the ball is when it’s going into the pin deck and where it is when it’s exiting the pin deck. So we’re able to measure how the ball is actually moving through the pins.”
Specto also measures ball paths for every shot thrown, a functionality that can be applied for pro bowling telecasts as it can show every shot thrown over the course of a show to document how transition is developing on the TV pair and how players are adjusting to it.
“In terms of telling a story on TV, I think we’ll be able to do some really cool things,” Chartrand said.
Chartrand hopes to roll that out on PWBA telecasts in 2017.
All data Specto collects for a given bowler is stored using cloud storage so that bowlers can download the Specto app in a center that has Specto installed and have their data uploaded to their phones in real time as they practice, allowing them to create a “Specto profile.”
Chartrand says the Grand Re-Opening coincides with the release of Specto to the market. He plans to announce the product for sale later this year.
Another technological enhancement is an LED light that can be positioned at a board from which you wish for your ball to exit a given lane pattern, and cast a reflection in a line from the exit board to your position on the approach, essentially illustrating your launch angle for you.
“Most bowlers perceive that they need a bigger launch angle than what is necessary. What we’ve seen with people using this technology in our training center is that their launch angles have been so much better, and so much more consistent,” Chartrand said.
“And here’s an interesting byproduct of this: If you are walking straight and your head is straight, the line stays the same, but if your head moves left or right, the line moves. The point is, for people who had lateral head movement in their approach, which is not ideal, the line moved and distracted them. This got people to stabilize their heads in their approach because they didn’t want the line to move.”
For Chartrand, all the upgrades to the Kegel Training Center that will be rolled out with the Grand Re-Opening in November point to founder John Davis’s forward-looking vision.
“I like to think back on the vision that John had for the training center,” he said. “When it got started in 1997, the concept of a bowling training center didn’t exist. This was the first training center; John envisioned it as a place where people could go and get some instruction. It wasn’t open to the public, no birthday parties or anything like that. All we’re going to do is coach the game of bowling.
“Now, we’re close to 20 years, and there’s a training center in Texas, there’s a training center in Hong Kong, there’s a training facility in Finland, and there’s Turbo Tech in Detroit. There are training facilities all around the world, and I tend to believe that the Kegel Training Center was at the forefront of all of that. They took their cue from the vision that John had and Kegel had.
"With this Grand Re-opening, we’ll once again be setting the trend for what the future will look like for coaching. We really want to show people where the future of coaching is headed. We are basically modernizing the approach to coaching. This is about our commitment to the sport and being a leader in the sport. The training center always has been a leader in coaching the game of bowling.”