Since New York-based Bowlmor took over AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. about two months ago, the acquiring company has been making its presence known.
And not everyone is pleased with the results.
Locally, Georgett Studnicka, the two-time president of the Monday morning Christmas Club league at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills, reported Thursday that many daytime league bowlers at the center are “shocked and sad” at the closing of several Woodlake leagues.
“About 100 to 150 women [bowlers] are being displaced,” said Studnicka, a Chatsworth resident. “Some are going to Corbin Bowl [in Tarzana]. Others are just retiring.”
Studnicka, who is in her 70s, bowls in both the Christmas Club and Wednesday morning Troublemakers leagues. The Troublemakers league has about 50 members and is believed to have existed for more than 40 years. The Troublemakers players bowled their last games in that league Wednesday; many of them are moving on to Corbin.
Studnicka said Troublemakers members were recently told that its fall season would start Sept. 4. A few days later, members were notified that there would be no league bowling in the morning, Studnicka said.
Studnicka said the 12-person Christmas Club league is scheduled to finish its season in December and expects the league will not continue. Woodlake Bowl’s Fall Follies league with its some 50 bowlers also will not be continuing.
Kay Fountain, the secretary for the Christmas Club and Troublemakers leagues, said “the people who are coming in from New York think the economy in this end of the Valley is great.”
As a result, Fountain said she expected Woodlake Lanes was trying to create a “party center for young adults for the 20-30 crowd.”
Bob Edwards, the general manager of Woodlake Lanes, said “the new boss felt our daytime bowling was not paying off because of the operating costs of the business and made a decision to open at 4 [p.m.] and save hundreds and hundreds of dollars in payroll.”
Edwards said the decision to end several leagues was difficult for him because “I know a lot of the ladies a long time. It was one of the toughest things I had to do. It was nothing against the ladies. I called [other] bowling centers and asked them if they had room [for the discontinued leagues].
“It’s upsetting to me because [Woodlake] has been home to some of the women for 40 years,” Edwards said. “It was a financial decision. The first thing I did was trying to find somewhere else for them to bowl.”
Edwards added: “The nighttime leagues are fine. We’ll continue to operate from 4 until midnight.”
The merger of Bowlmor and AMF has resulted in a new company called Bowlmor AMF. It is the largest operator of bowling centers in the world with 7,500 employees and 272 bowling centers.
Before the merger, Bowlmor operated with six bowling centers under the control of Tom Shannon, who is now the chief executive, chairman and president of Bowlmor AMF. None of Bowlmor’s bowling houses had league play.
In an interview after the merger, Shannon said that Bowlmor was the “only bidder willing to pay” to help AMF out of bankruptcy. It was the second time in 10 years that AMF had been in bankruptcy.
“I didn’t buy AMF to get in bankruptcy a third time, but to save it,” Shannon had said in the July 9 interview.
In that interview, Shannon also declared that league bowling under the new company was “very safe.”
“We plan to increase the league bowling business, not shrink it,” Shannon had said.
Shannon could not be reached for comment for this story.