Flanked by co-owners, family, business and community leaders, Kathy Decker, cut the ribbon officially opening Champion Bowling Center. The facility, which has long been a bowling alley in Washington, is now under new ownership, new management and with a new outlook.
“It wasn’t something that we planned,” said co-owner Jeff Owens. “It was something that just kind of happened. We knew this building was vacant and we weren’t sure what was going to happen to it. Initially, (co-owner) Chris (Hoover) and I put a bid on it. We didn’t plan on going into the bowling business but we won the bid.”
Kathy Decker and Jerry Torres eventually joined Hoover and Owens in the ownership group. But in the meantime, a decision had to be made about what to do with the building.
“We then had to decide what to do with it so that we could make some money or at least break even with it,” said Owens. “We knew we needed a bowling alley here. We just needed to supplement it somehow, so we went with the ax throwing.”
The team of owners removed some lanes to make way for ax throwing facilities, and the decision was one that had to be thought out.
“We talked with Brunswick and a bunch of people to try and determine how many lanes we needed here,” said Owens. “They did a report and recommended 11 lanes. We decided to go with 16 lanes because that is what a lot of leagues use. It worked out pretty nice. Now we have a huge area for the restaurant. It’s been pretty neat.”
The new owners decided to re-do the old bowling alley but that turned into a bigger job than they originally expected.
“We have more cash than we anticipated in this,” said Owens. “The place had not had a major renovation since it was built. It has had some cosmetic work done but nothing major. There was a lot of plumbing and electrical work that had to be upgraded. The kitchen had to be gutted. All of the walls had to be insulated, flooring replaced. The more we got into it, taking things apart, the more we realized we needed a little bit more done.”
Decker will be handling the day-to-day operations as manager of Champion Lanes. Torres, who owns Mi Pueblo and Reid’s, will oversee the food side. The plan is to reach out and do more things than just host bowling.
“Summer is normally a slow time for bowling centers. When the sun is shining people don’t really show up at the bowling alley. We are trying to come up with some things for people to do here as an option,” said Owens. “We have some businesses doing training here. We have hosted some graduation parties and I think we booked a bunch for next year.”
Owens says there are plans for bowling leagues to begin later this year and more.
“We are going to start leagues in the fall,” he said. “We are also going to try to develop an ax throwing league. We want to get something going with that.”
Even with the extra expense, Owens says he is pleased with the unexpected business.
“At the end of the day, whether it makes money or not, it is something good for the community. It’s something we need here in Washington,” he said. “I think it’s something neat for Washington. Even though we didn’t plan it, I think it turned out great and it is going to be good for Washington.”