Volume 2, Issue 18, The 70th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Lately, my son and I are obsessing over a computer game called Roller Coaster Tycoon. It's one of those simulation games, not unlike Sim City, Sim Ant, or Sim Safari where you are given a make-believe amusement park, and your job is to make it a thriving enterprise.
While I was playing, it dawned on me, how beneficial a simulated bowling center game would be. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't ask me how much it would cost to build a bowling center. I don't know many kids actually believe they could manage a major league franchise--let alone afford one, so why is it that people believe if they have a bit of land, and a few scraps of plywood, they can suddenly be a bowling center proprietor? Trying to juggle all the hats an owner/manager wears while sanctioned bowling's numbers decline is a daunting task at best. Sure free bowling is a nice perk, but that's hardly the entire job description.
So assuming that Sim Bowling Center came out on CD for my PC, how hard could it be to be a winner? Let's see:
Would I favor league bowlers over open play? Could I live on the bread and butter of declining league bowling, or would I risk my livelihood on the high-profit of open bowlers and the recreational dollar. League bowlers scrutinize the lineage costs. Leagues demand certain conditions. Some folks will complain the lanes are too hard, and others will claim they're too easy--and they're bowling the same league on the same pair of lanes.
Would I put out the "Wally World" walled up shot that makes anyone and their grandma a duece bowler? It sure makes bowlers feel good, and guarantees the ones you have stay with you, for fear of being found out as "condition" bowlers. Or do I put out a tough shot and hope for enough brave souls to shoe up on a condition that requires accuracy? Some bowlers would run from such a house. Others flock to it.
Would I jump on the "Cosmic" bandwagon? Could I compromise with leagues bowling Monday through Thursday, with the weekends free for the recreational folks? I have to admit that the notion that people will pay over double to do less of something is attractive to my maintenance budget. But who knows whether today's fad will survive a year or two, and I'll be left with an empty building on weekends when the next fad takes over.
Would I offer a snack bar, or a complete restaurant? Should I offer the fried appetizers that make a snack bar a profit center, or do I appease the athletes and the health conscious and provide healthier fare? Let's face it, when it's an evening out, people don't question a $2 soda, or buying a pitcher of beer or two and other munchies. When folks do something every week, it becomes an avocation. It's a lot tougher to justify paying more for the same soda they can buy for under a $1 at 7-11 next door. One thing for certain, the first thing I'd invest in would be a cappuccino machine, that's one place people cough up $4 for coffee, and don't complain. :)
How much could I afford to pay employees? Pay too little, and I'll end up with a staff of people who's only other option for employment would be repeating "Would you like fries with that? ad infinitum. Pay too much, and I'd end up with a salary expense that prices me right out of the market. Where does the balance between great employees and making money come in?
Throw in taxes, licenses, and insurance. Don't forget seemingly stupid signs that read "Do not cross foul line--Oil makes lanes slippery" and "Do not stick your hands in the ball return." Just when I'd think those warnings are obvious, a customer will walk down the center of a lane to attempt to retrieve a dead ball. Note to self: make room in the vending machine for Tums, or else the stress will give you an ulcer.
Wow, all these decisions and long hours too. Weekends off? Only until one of the new guys calls in sick, and I'm faced with working the desk AND playing porter. Somehow, I don't see too many managers and proprietors retiring early or living lavishly. I think I'll thank my manager for the job he's doing now, but let him keep the job. I'm sure I forgot a bunch of things, and my SimCenter would fail in real life. I'd rather leave it to the experts to make the hard decisions, and leave the bowling up to me.