People’s Pick: Bowling & Family Entertainment Center

This team strikes it big with bowling concept

Miami-Dade County is rich with arts and sporting events, gyms and golf courses, bars and restaurants. But there’s one thing missing: a family entertainment center catering to both hard-core competitive bowlers and the weekend leisure crowd.

The team led by Florida International student and competitive bowler Joshua Kaufman wants to change that, and submitted a plan for an upscale family-friendly 40-lane bowling facility also featuring billiards, arcade games, a pro show, bowling training facility and full restaurant and bar. After all, Kaufman said, bowling is the most popular indoor sport in the country, it appeals to all ages, and the industry as a whole has grown in revenues every year.

Bowling fans seem to agree: This plan won the People’s Pick vote in the Business Plan Challenge FIU Track.

Kaufman and his business partner, André Pamplona, bring 20 years of combined experience in the bowling, restaurant, entertainment and hospitality industries. They both have managed bowling centers that netted several million in annual revenue and have a long passion for the sport.

Kaufman, who is pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in finance and real estate with a minor in construction management, began working in bowling alleys in his early teens sweeping floors, and worked his way up. Pamplona, who hired Kaufman for his first job, said bowling is a family love — his grandfather opened Sao Paulo, Brazil’s first bowling alley.

They also have brought real estate expertise to their team. Kaufman’s father, Henry, who has 40 years experience as a developer and general contractor, is serving as director of construction and business advisor for the new company, KA-FL Group.

When the Don Carter family business closed in 2006, Kaufman and Pamplona, who both were top managers there, began thinking about the void in the market and what could be done. This closing had followed the closings of Cloverleaf, Piper Lanes and others, leaving just one regulation bowling center in Miami-Dade that is sanctioned by the United States Bowling Congress, Bird Bowl. While there are boutique bowling centers like Lucky Strikes, those don’t attract competitive bowlers because they don’t have regulation lanes, Kaufman said.

“There has been much debate as to whether bowling is a sport or recreational activity. The reality is that it is both, and to realize the full income potential of a facility, it must cater to both markets,” Kaufman said in the plan. At their bowling center, which they are calling The Approach, state-of-the-art regulation lanes will attract the weekday leagues and national tournaments, and the family-friendly amenities will pull in the weekend crowd, as well as birthday parties and corporate events.

“It will be a place a family can go hang out for two or three hours, have a lot of fun and not spend a fortune,” said Pamplona. “It’s a community builder.”

The team has been negotiating for a building in southwestern Miami-Dade. “By renovating an existing building, rather than building new, it will cost 25 percent of what it would have,” said Kaufman. Still, to make their dream a reality, they need $3.5 million for the building acquisition, construction, furnishings, equipment and startup capital, and the team has been approaching investors and banks, business plan in hand.

Read more Business Plan Challenge stories from the Miami Herald

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