There's a good explanation for why the corporate logo for the new Bowlero bowling alley in San Marcos is a bowling ball with antlers.
General Manager Jennifer Kraus said it's a message to her customers to "expect the unexpected" at the business, which hosted its grand opening on Oct. 14.
Bowlero San Marcos replaces the old AMF Eagle Lanes at 975 W. San Marcos Blvd., which opened in the mid-1980s.
Where AMF Eagle Lanes was old-fashioned and homespun in its appeal, Bowlero is bold, quirky, hip and upscale.
Among the improvements introduced during the six-month renovation is a new, high-end bar offering cocktails, draft beer and wine, an upgraded food menu that can be ordered lane-side, a 25-game arcade, upscale lounge seating, neon and black lighting features, wall art, a hand-laid herringbone-pattern wood floor and 20 high-definition video walls over the lanes, where bowlers can watch live sports games, movies and music videos.
Bowlero is the next-generation bowling alley being rolled out nationwide by Bowlmor AMF, which owns more than 300 bowling alleys in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The 4-year-old New York City-based company was created from the merger of the Bowlmor, AMF and, later, Brunswick Bowling chains. Over time, the company plans to convert its older bowling alleys into Bowleros. So far, 35 conversions have been completed, including in Tustin and Torrance. The next to come online locally will be in Chula Vista around Thanksgiving.
Krystle Grampre, area manager for Bowlmor AMF, said the idea for Bowlero came from company CEO Tom Shannon when he renovated his first Bowlmor bowling alley back in 1995.
"Tom had a vision to add great food, drinks and a nightlife feel to a rundown bowling alley and make it more fun," Grampre said.
Back in the 1960s and '70s, bowling alleys were a popular hangout for teenagers. But as those bowlers aged, the dated look and feel of the venues made them less appealing to later generations of teens and young adults.
Grampre said Bowlero is modern, but with a retro appeal. There's a pool table and modern video games, but also old-fashioned games such as corn hole and beer pong. The center's lighting and entertainment will be geared for a family audience by day and for an adult crowd by night.
One of the most unique signatures of Bowlero is its food menu, which is known for its wildly oversized items designed for group dining. The menu star is the 14-inch Behemoth Burger, which can feed up to 15 people for $56. There's also the XXL Pretzel, which is as big as a large pizza, a three-foot hot dog and a gigantic cookie dessert.
Because the 40-lane bowling alley stayed open during renovations, Grampre said that all of the center's longtime bowling leagues have stayed on. Game prices very, but start as low as $2.22 on Tuesday nights after 8 p.m.
Kraus said that all of the equipment in Bowlero is state of the art, but she wants the 35,000-square-foot center to be best known for its service.
"We're an entertainment company so we engage with our guests to make sure they have a great experience," she said. "It's about making people feel comfortable enough to want to come and spend several hours here with their friends and family."
Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman hosted the center's grand opening festivities on Oct. 14.
Bowlero San Marcos
What: Newly refurbished 40-lane bowling alley
Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Noon to 1 a.m. Fridays. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays.
Where: 945 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos