Splitsville Luxury Lanes reopened at Disney Springs last week, and it’s worked to make bowling less unnerving in the coronavirus pandemic era.
It may not be the ideal time to be running such a hands-on business, let alone one that rents out borrowed shoes. It’s a challenge with solutions that include aggressive cleaning for bowling balls and the option for customers to keep their own shoes on, thank you very much.
Mike Crave, Splitsville’s general manager, walked me through some sanitary measures added to the lanes during its four-month shutdown.
And then we got down to feather bowling. It didn’t tickle at all.
1. Before we roll
When a group finishes bowling at Splitsville, the nine balls assigned to that lane are sanitized before the next group sits down. Crave demonstrated.
First, each set of balls is arranged with their holes pointed skyward. Those areas are squirted with disinfectant. Then a sanitary wipe is used over the entire surface of the balls, and they are each moved from the ball-return to a rolling rack for drying. While that happens, another wipe is used to sanitize the chute from which the balls come up, the metal surfaces, the scorekeeping electronics and the hand-sanitizer dispenser, which sports an oval sticker with SPV — as in Splitsville — printed on it. Then the balls are put back into ball-return, ready for the next party.
“So I’m wiping everything that a bowling ball even touched now,” Crave said while giving the area a thorough once-over.
It adds five to seven minutes to the time needed to get a lane ready for the next group, he said.
Customers usually see this process after a lane near them opens up, and its reassuring, he added.
“In the morning, before everybody gets here, we clean them. Then they’re empowering us and trusting us to say, yeah, they’re clean. They’re sanitized,” Crave said. “And then they see us [doing the cleaning], they’re like … ‘Perfect.’”
2. Best foot forward
“It looks like a hairnet, but it’s made for bowling,” Crave said.
Introducing “bowling buddies,” shoe coverings that let potential bowlers keep their own shoes on.
The front part of the sole is felt, which allows for the slide upon a bowler’s approach to the pins. Material on the back puts on the brakes, just like bowling shoes are designed to.
“One group that bought them, they thought it was the coolest thing,” Crave said. “Yeah, they’re like, ‘This is so cool. I get to wear my Nikes and bowl.’”
Splitsville sells bowling buddies for $2 a pair.
3. What divides us
If the future is plastic partitions, Splitsville is ready.
“We added partitions, really, anywhere we could,” Crave said. “If you notice there are partitions up at the Welcome Center desk. Anywhere there’s a hostess stand, anywhere we’re taking payment, that there’s a transaction, other than the bar top, we’ve added partitions.”
There are clear panels that extend up from top booths where waiting bowlers sit. But there are none on the floor near the approach to the lanes. Instead, Splitsville assigns groups to every-other lane to build in the social distancing.
But don’t wander to other lanes for the perfect ball. Splitsville’s bowling balls have been assigned to each lane, and they want to discourage cross-contamination.
4. Odds and ends
Hand sanitizers have been installed at every lane. There’s now one entrance to the building, with more distinct queuing that’s designated for bowlers and for those who are coming to Splitsville for meals only. (Previously there were three ways to enter.) A reduced menu has returned, and it’s available by scanning a QR code with a smartphone. Operating hours are shorter right now. Splitsville is open from 4-9 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. (A good way to doublecheck if and when something’s open at Disney Springs is at disneysprings.com. The situation is fluid.)
5. With a feather
Upstairs at Splitsville is a new offering called feather bowling. It has elements of bocce ball, curling, shuffleboard horseshoes, and cornhole, Carver notes. The felt playing surface is about 18 feet long, raised to about waist high and it’s concave — arched from side to side. It has roots in Belgium, where they rolled rounds of cheese toward the goal: a feather sticking up at the far end.
In Orlando, the balls are just sort of cheese shaped, and players toss from one end to the other, using the momentum and angles from the curved sides. Each team has six balls per round. It’s a closest-to-the-feather wins format. There’s some strategy that involves blocking your opponent and some posted rules, including “No cussing (in English).” Disney Springs is still a family place.
You can reserve the feather bowling table for $16 an hour (there are two at Splitsville). That’s also the price for billiards there. Regular bowling is $22 per person.
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