Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl clear to lay down lanes
Big ideas for projects often have rather modest beginnings. The first inkling of what is now Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl Bowling Center started with a birthday party.
“We’d been thinking about it starting in November 2008, just before moving up here. We went to a birthday at Pinz in North Hollywood, and my wife, Andrea, and I thought, ‘Bowling? Really?,’ but it was really fun, and as we were leaving, Andrea said ‘Mammoth needs one of these,’” recalled the project’s developer, Dan O’Connell.
So there it was. Turns out, he and Andrea, who is also his partner in the project’s development, found perhaps the one piece of property best suited for a new business venture, currently a vacant lot between the Castoff and Southern California Edison on Chateau Rd. Grading of the land on which the two-story structure will sit began this week, in conjunction with the official groundbreaking.
Behind the structure are the Sherwins, which won’t be obscured much with a 33-foot height limitation, which is fine with the O’Connells and architect Bruce Woodward. Guests will have a great view of the mountains, and Mammoth Rock in particular, from which the bowling center derives its name.
Are the O’Connells the right developers with the right idea at the right time and on the right property? At first they weren’t entirely convinced. “If it was such a great idea, why wasn’t anyone already planning on doing it?” Dan asked rhetorically. “Later it occurred to me that most builders are doing different projects that are either for sale or lease, but not to operate, or just not the best fit for this location.”
The Rock ‘N Bowl, which will feature 12 lanes, golf simulators (including winter lessons given by Dave Schacht and his Sierra Star crew), a laser maze tag game, a restaurant and bar helmed by local chef Matt Eoff, a pro shop and the odd arcade game here and there, is exactly the right fit for the lot, Dan thinks. “It’s great for all seasons, and my hunch is demand for it by locals will be as great or greater than that of out-of- town guests,” he opined.
Construction, Dan points out, will be done largely by local contractors. During the planning phases, he noted that the project asked the Town of Mammoth Lakes for absolutely no variances, and in fact has added parking not required as part of his agreement. O’Connell has a reciprocal parking arrangement with the Cast Off, opening up extra bowling center parking after hours, and allowing Cast Off use of the Rock ‘N Bowl’s lot during daylight hours.
The O’Connells, both supporters of AYSO Soccer and other youth-related activities, advocate the increased options available for good, all-around fun activities for younger people. Beyond that, Andrea envisions the Rock ‘N Bowl as one of the town’s activity hubs, a destination folks will seek out rather than happen upon while passing by.
Bowling has 100 million participants worldwide and is currently the top-ranked indoor recreation activity according to bleacherreport.com.
“Bowling centers tend to last a long time,” Dan added.
“We don’t see ourselves competing with Bishop’s lanes, and don’t see them competing with us,” he stated, adding that a bowling center’s sphere of influence averages about 5 miles in any direction.
The O’Connells cite a growing trend toward incorporating bowling in ski towns, with Vail and Park City recently adding similar centers, and already operational lanes in South Lake Tahoe and Incline Village.
Dan, being a competitor in the local winter downhill Village Championships race series, also has plans to expand the competition to add bowling as part of a “bowl-athlon.” Skiers would compete on Tuesday, as they do now, and then on Thursday would bowl, and both scores would be added at the end of the season.
Warmer, non-snow periods are also deemed fertile ground for the center, which will benefit from tourism both from Los Angeles and other areas, as well as the expanding local festival scene, which Dan enthusiastically supports. “LA is reaching critical mass, and the infrastructure is failing the population base such that there’s a growing demand to get out of there,” he posited. “Consequently more and more people are discovering Mammoth in summer. You can spend about 3-4 hours in horrendous freeway traffic just to get to Big Bear, or spend an extra half-hour or so going up to a real mountain resort town.”
The big question: when is it time to put on the bowling shirt and get the ball ready for league play? Dan thinks sometime late next summer or early next fall. “It feels like forever since we went through the Use Permit process, but it was only last August, so we’re breaking ground at just about a year or more,” he estimated. “We wanted to break ground in spring, but building a 3-in-1 project is pretty complex. We wanted to do it right the first time. It’s been really well thought out, and been through lots of iterations and evolutions.”
Golf simulators weren’t part of the original concept, for example. “I have lots of ideas for later development of the bowling center and other things in town, but what the increasing town clamor for the Rock ‘N Bowl illustrates is the need for more diverse recreational opportunities, especially during the winter, when apart from snow sports, your other options are somewhat limited. Bottom line: I’m okay with having a corner on the indoor recreation market!”