Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
Sports

Andrade family back in the bowling business

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Ever since the Andrade family said goodbye to Spring Hill Lanes nearly two decades ago, the desire to return to the bowling business began to grow.

Not until earlier this year did they finally get a chance to jump back in.

Now the new owners of Mariner Lanes are facing their first full winter season, feeling good about the direction they're taking their newest establishment.

"This has always been in our blood," Arnie Andrade said. "This was a bowling family prior to even getting into building Spring Hill Lanes. We came from Connecticut at that time and at that time my whole family was bowling in leagues. Myself, I was probably bowling in three leagues, and it was a natural fit for us.

"And since we were in the business at Spring Hill, honestly this was pretty much an easy fit for my family. It's just second nature for us."

Arnie Andrade, and his parents Waldir and Maria, became the third ownership group of Mariner in March, purchasing it from primary owner Rafael Hernandez.

Mariner was originally owned by United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Edie Jo Norman, who opened the bowling center in 1989 and held onto it until 2005.

The Andrades owned and operated Spring Hill Lanes when it opened in 1980, then sold it to the Martins family in 1995 due to personal reasons, Arnie Andrade said.

After that, Arnie Andrade joined his brother in pool construction.

"The truth is we missed the (bowling) business," Andrade said. "In the last four or five years we've been looking to get back into the business. And this particular situation arose, so it was easy for us living in Spring Hill.

"We're very happy being back in the business and excited about moving forward with the bowling."

Since the ownership change in the spring, gradual changes have taken place. Immediately, the poor condition of the pinsetters was addressed, and repairs were done around the building.

Only a few weeks ago, Kegel, considered the leader in lane maintenance, repaired Mariner's lane machine. According to Andrade, the machine "was missing some key components and not oiling as it should. We expect lane conditions to be much improved."

Mariner also boasts two new, heavily experienced mechanics, Andy King and Jonathan Page, joining Ronald Bilbey to form a trio charged with maintaining the lanes and laying down a consistent oil pattern.

Many members of the Andrade family, including Arnie's wife and son, as well as his brother and his brother's family, are lending a hand. They've also brought in a longtime employee from their Spring Hill Lanes days, Domenic Moreno, as bar manager at Spare Times Sports Bar and Eatery.

Professional bowler Tom Daugherty, a member of the PBA national tour, took over the pro shop at Mariner coinciding with the Andrades' arrival.

"We're very pleased so far with the progress they've made in there, also," Andrade said.

???The cosmetic alterations are far from done. Under Hernandez, the non-bowling areas of Mariner had undergone significant reconstruction, and Andrade indicated there are plans to reorganize.

"There's some needs in the establishment that we're going to be addressing as far as the existing interior," Andrade said. "There's going to be improvements on all those areas."

The biggest adjustment, however, has yet to arrive. In the very near future, the monikers Mariner Lanes and Spare Time will be dropped entirely in a rebranding effort.

Andrade declined to officially reveal the new names, as he hasn't received final clearance to begin using them.

He did, though, make it clear that the fresh titles will reflect a family-oriented emphasis.

"Bowling like it was before years ago, it's changed dramatically to incorporate arcades; other areas that are very important are the food and beverage areas of the operation," Andrade said. "It's really become a social event for people to come in for full entertainment, not just for bowling anymore."

Mariner has been participating in a national program called "Kids Bowl Free," through which anyone under age 18 can bowl two free games per day through Sept. 3, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

That's part of an effort to rebuild a slumping youth bowling program, a key element to rehabilitating the customer base.

Another important step will take place within the next two weeks: reestablishing the defunct Coca-Cola Classic on Monday nights.

The competitive mixed league was long a popular staple of the center's winter schedule, requiring a waiting list at its height. The league completely folded following the 2011-12 season amid declining turnout.

The Coca-Cola Classic will be reborn this season, starting with a league meeting this Monday at 8:30 p.m. Bowling begins the following week.

"It's a work in progress," Andrade said. "We know that things will take place slowly, but we've already had some good response for the fall. We've already had some league meetings take place. We're very excited and looking forward to the new season."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

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