How Much Money Do You Need to Open a Bowling Alley?

A bowling alley can be a fun, worthwhile business venture, but it can also be incredibly daunting. Where do you start, and how much will it cost?

Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to factor in, and how much you should expect to spend to open a bowling alley.

Starting, Licensing, and Business Costs

The first thing you’ll need to consider if you’re starting a bowling alley is the various administrative costs. These include registering your business, licensing fees, taxes, and all the rest of those government-related paperwork costs. Financing is also another factor to consider. It is paramount to have financing in place to being your project.

Depending on where you are in the world, these fees can vary drastically. In the United States, the average cost for the fees to create a business tends to be a few hundred dollars, with an average of another $1200 per year for insurance. Bowling alleys can require more expensive insurance, so you may have to pay more depending on your alley’s size and setup.

You’ll also have to think about creating a website and advertising to help you get off the ground. You can buy a website for less than $100, but getting one built professionally will probably cost you a few thousand dollars. And advertising will likely be another few thousand.

There are also taxes to worry about when you start making money. It won’t affect you much at first, but corporate taxes can definitely get hefty when you start making money. You’ll have to be careful to plan those in as operating expenses, or else you’ll find yourself in a world of financial hurt.  It is recommended to have a CPA or accountant to address the issues of taxes and other operating expenses.

 Location, Location, Location

This is probably your biggest expense, and it can vary greatly depending on the factors in your business. People building home bowling alleys run into these same cost issues, but they’re typically not trying to run a commercial bowling alley. Where are you opening your alley, and are you building a new space or renting an existing one? 

If you’re renting an existing place, your costs will probably be significantly lower. But if you’re planning to build a bowling alley, you’re obviously going to have to pay a lot more upfront. The upside is, you can hopefully build it in a better location that brings in more customers! If renting a space, it is important to get measurements. Providing information to the bowling alley builder or architect on the location and spacing of columns and posts within the facility is important to take into consideration.

Also, how big is your bowling alley going to be? Square footage is a huge cost you’ll have to factor in, and a three-lane alley will be much smaller than a thirty-lane alley. We estimate that you’ll need a minimum of about 1,000 square feet per lane to factor in the size of the lane and the extra rooms and features you’ll need to include with the business. You’ll never have enough space if you try to squeeze 12 lanes into 12,000 sf for all other amenities. As a general rule, you don’t want your bowling area to exceed 50% of the buildings space.    

So, if you plan on building an eight-lane establishment, you’ll probably need a minimum of 8,000 square feet. In some places, you might be able to rent a building for $15 a square foot, while in others, it might be $40. Today’s bowling alleys typically cannot make it on bowling revenue alone. If you have noticed, many bowling alleys have included dining, bar, game room, laser tag and other sources of revenue.  

You should look at the area where you’re looking to start your business and figure out how much the average cost per square foot is. Then, multiply that value by how many total square feet you need, and that should give you a rough estimate of your monthly rent.

Of course, you also need to plan money for actually constructing the bowling alleys unless you’re moving into a location with existing lanes. Extra construction will definitely increase your starting costs by quite a bit.

Necessary Equipment to Open a Bowling Alley

Besides the space and the lanes, you also have to think about the rest of the equipment that goes into your bowling alley business. Bowling balls, shoe rentals, lighting, scoreboards, and pinsetters are just some of these bits of equipment you’ll have to purchase.

Depending on if you go for used or new equipment, estimates for your costs vary. Typically, the estimates are between $45,000 and $60,000 per lane. That’s quite a lot! The number of lanes will also dictate the per lane price. For example, an 8-lane alley will cost more per lane than a 16-lane center. Construction cost can also increase the price as well.   

Staff

If you’re planning on running a bowling alley all on your own, this won’t be a big concern. But if you want to hire anyone, that can take a good chunk of additional cash!

Payroll and payroll taxes can add up quite a bit, even with only a few employees. Even if you just get a couple of teenagers in the evenings to help you out, their pay will add up to your expenses over time.

You’ll have to figure out how much help you need to run your bowling alley company, and how competitive you’re willing to get with salaries. In many places, even entry-level wages are rising quite quickly, while in others they’ve remained low.

Other Assorted Costs

There are plenty of other costs that factor into running a business. Utilities, cleaning, decorations, and payment and software are just some of the things you’ll have to consider. You’ll need lights and temperature control, but you may be able to get away with basic decorations or a simple system in other places. Most centers utilize payment software which is part of the POS system provided by the company furnishing the computerized scoring system. Generally, when someone is quoted a price for a certain number of lanes, the POS system is already included.  

A lot of this boils down to the type of business you want to run and what your budget can handle. If you want to make the place a “fun for the whole family” establishment with video games, food, bowling, and prizes, go right ahead! But if you need to keep things simple, you can cut a lot of those out and save on costs.

Overall, your total costs will probably range somewhere between $80,000 and $500,000 to start your bowling alley. This is a wide range, but it greatly depends on what factors need to go into getting the whole thing started.

Learn More About Bowling Alleys!

If you’d like to learn more about the steps to open a bowling alley, what makes a good bowling alley, or anything else bowling related, we’d love to help!

Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you have. We want to provide you with the best bowling advice and knowledge possible!

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