Forming leagues – a Yearlong Project

Running a league-based house can be extremely difficult at this time of the year. Time never seems to be on your side, and decisions are often made slowly by returning teams.

Back in the day, leagues accounted for a full 90% of my revenue.  In fact, due to the industry where I live, we had leagues bowling after work – 8am, 4pm, and midnight were very popular start times.  We also enjoyed 9am, noon,6pm and 9pm leagues on top of the industrial leagues – this was a typical daily schedule with little time for open play, but we did well with it on the weekends.

Those days are gone in most markets, and today being “full” means you might only fill one shift. In most cases, it’s the 6pm leagues. Industry-wide, we have done very well filling our lanes from Friday to Sunday with open play bowlers, and we have expanded our food and beverage service, getting very creative with top-notch dishes, craft beers, wines and exotic drinks to satisfy even the upscale tastes.

Competitive bowling and leagues are very important to our industry – and they are extremely important to your bottom line. As you organize your leagues – and as numbers are declining year after year – there is hope to keep leagues alive and competitive bowling up front. This is precisely what I did to ease my nerves over declining numbers and “holes” in the schedule.

Using a digital calendar that shows all your lanes and days, map out your center’s inventory by the day for the entire year. This map can be done as a simple spreadsheet. If you need help with this process, please allow me to assist you.

First, insert all of your annual events. Think about corporate outings, youth outings, fundraisers, and other types of events in that category.

Next, insert all your leagues that will be starting in the fall. Identify the times you want to leave available for all types of open play. Set aside lanes for a realistic number of birthday parties. You know your most popular times for the parties in your area, so use that as a baseline for setting aside the lanes. In most markets, this would be Saturday and Sundays afternoons.

Finally, be sure to take into account other factors that are unique to your center.

At this point, you should now have a snapshot of your available lane inventory. I am sure a majority of it is Monday to Thursday.

Here is where you will need to create 8 to 10 programs. As examples, you may want to have a ball league, pizza pitcher leagues, traditional ma and pa leagues, tattoo league, or country western. The best part here is that the sky is the limit in creating these programs.

The leagues should be short (6 to 8 weeks) with four members mixed on a team.

Be sure to create realistic start dates and spread them out. You might even want to insert other events.  Fill the calendar, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. The idea is to create more “annual events” for each subsequent year.

Never try to start two leagues in the same week or segment. Give yourself 4 to 6 weeks to promote them. Insert each promotional period also on your calendar. It’s very important that you not try to start too many league or programs at once.

Get your staff involved in this process and appoint “team leaders” for different leagues. Hold staff meetings leading up to each promotional period. Inform the staff and let them be involved in your planning. Include in your calendar deadlines for flyers, and dates for social media posts and content, as well as dates for website updates and in-house promoting.

Planning now is the key to a successful league program. Don’t let another year slip through your fingers.  If you need help in this process, please allow me to assist in this project. Planning now could be the best thing you have ever done for your business.

Yours for better bowling,


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