An Interview with Pat Ciniello

Continuing our discussion on how bowling centers can help veterans this month, I had the opportunity to speak with Pat Ciniello, chairman of QubicaAMF Worldwide, Inc. Pat has spent more than 48 years in the bowling industry, beginning with Nationwide Bowling & Brunswick. He later served as director of operations for Treadway Companies, where he oversaw twenty-six bowling centers in the United States. He serves on numerous boards of directors and executive committees, including Strike Ten Entertainment and was also Chairman of the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame and President of MUBIG (Multi Unit Bowling Information Group).

 Jim: We’ve known each other for 25 years, but there is one thing I am not sure we have ever actually discussed: How did you get involved in bowling?

Pat: As a child, I worked cleaning bowling balls. I was drawn to the game then. After college, I went into the Air Force and did four years in the service. My college degree was in business, and when I got out of the Air Force, I first worked in medical sales. I was presented with the opportunity to work for Brunswick Corporation, running bowling centers for them. A few years later, I was offered a job with Treadway Companies, starting in marketing but eventually becoming Director of Operations. Through these jobs, I developed a background in multi-unit management. Then in 1980, the opportunity presented itself for me to become a proprietor in Naples, Florida, which I took.

Jim: You and your wife Lisa were leading the way in league bowling and running traditional Bowling centers, and you have taken key steps to rebrand your centers – HeadPinz.

Pat: Through my years of working alongside some of the greats in our industry, I could see where we needed to go in the future. For instance, I spent a lot of time with Neil Hupfauer and saw the Main Events brand come along. Bowling-based-entertainment became a focus for us. Even in our traditional bowling centers, we were always strong with food and beverage sales. The F&B part of the service was a key to our growth and ability to get people in the door. The first HeadPinz was in Cape Coral. We took a 24-lane center and removed six lanes, so we could add a game zone. With that move, we were able to grow revenue more than three hundred percent over four years. We could see that the bowling-based-entertainment model would work in Southwest Florida. Then the economy started getting better. We moved forward in 2015 and built the HeadPinz in Fort Myers, Florida. The biggest learning point for us was that the majority of our revenue in the new HeadPinz model was generated in 3 days—Friday, Saturday & Sunday. That’s way different from the traditional bowling center/league-based model.

Jim: Pat, as you know, November is BVL Month in America! You do so much to support the troops and our veterans – both in your personal giving and through your bowling centers. What prompted you to get involved in this type of charitable work?

Pat: My father served in World War II, and I served in the Air Force and was stationed in Korea during the Vietnam conflict. The Ciniellos– uncles, cousins–we all served in the military. So, I think it was just a natural transition for my family to look for ways to support veterans.

Jim: Well, first of all, thank you for your service to our country. You’ve turned your passion for servicemen and women into an opportunity to grow the BVL program. How exactly have you managed to plug into BVL?

Pat: We have always been part of BVL, working with the local association (first ABC and now USBC) and our fellow Southwest Florida Bowling Proprietors group. For many years, we tied our senior pro bowling tour stop with the BVL. Now, we work jointly with all the leagues in centers in Southwest Florida. We are in three counties in SW Florida, and we have been able to generate thousands of dollars for our veterans. As an example, we had more than ninety people bowling in the event in Charlotte County last weekend. Through that, we raised over $2800 dollars for BVL. We have multiple upcoming events, and in each of these events, we will generate awareness, revenue and goodwill. Our goal is always $25,000/year, and we always exceed that as we’ve done each of the past 2 years. We take this charity effort very seriously because we really believe in supporting the veterans and active duty troops.

Each year, we issue a personal challenge to our customers the week before Thanksgiving – for every dollar our bowlers donate, we will match it. My wife Lisa and my son Marc and I do this together.

Jim: That’s a great way to invest in this charity, as well. What has been the most rewarding part of your involvement with BVL?

Pat: We have the pleasure of going to Washington, D.C. to be part of the veterans-focused activities. One year, my wife, Lisa, was a flag-bearer. I met President Obama during one of these activities to honor our troops. We work with Mary Harrar from Bowlers to Veterans Link each time to take our activities to the next level. If I could say just one thing to other proprietors about BVL, it would be that it is extremely easy to get involved and to take advantage of the programs that BVL has created.

Jim: Do you have any recommended techniques for proprietors who would like to get involved?  

Pat: We say the skies the limit when it comes to raising money for BVL. We do a promotion with a local radio station, we host 9-pin no-tap mini fun tournaments, we go lane-to-lane and ask for donations during our leagues.  Doing BVL fundraisers are a great way to raise awareness to veterans needs, generate dollars for the troops and generate traffic in your center, hopefully with some new customers. It doesn’t get any better than that. And, the aspect I like the most is that you can build community. We set up tables at each of our locations with pictures of the veterans. The veterans love to be part of this program.

Jim: And one of the benefits of BVL is that you can earmark the funds your center raises to come back to your community.

Pat: Exactly. BVL allows proprietors to designate how the funds will be used. So, you can even direct those dollars to come back to a local veterans’ hospital in your community. The proprietor is in charge of selecting a specific veteran-focused charity.

Jim: Your energy and passion are amazing. You and your wife, Lisa, have tremendous energy, and have done so much to help veterans.

Pat: I love what I do and look forward to my work. It’s highly rewarding, and BVL is a highly rewarding program more proprietors should check out.

Jim: Thank you so much for the time today! It truly has been an honor to speak with you!

For more information about Pat and Lisa’s involvement with BVL, be sure to check out BVL’s site.

And if you would like to register your center to join BVL Month in America, sign up here.

Yours for Better Bowling,

Jim Nyhan