HeadPinz Has the Most Efficient Use of Space & Creative Design I’ve Yet Seen

Bowling passion and creative vision fueled the design of the Ft. Myers, Florida, HeadPinz. Owners Lisa and Pat Ciniello are pictured in the location’s circa 1900s-styled PinBoyz where even employees are dressed in old-school style. (Photo by Michael Caronchi Studio.)

Certainly what’s hot today is the bowling-anchored entertainment center concept and nowhere has that been done better than at HeadPinz in Ft. Myers, Fla. It’s a modern, upscale, 24-lane bowling entertainment center with four bars/restaurants that should be a must-visit for anyone looking for how to “do it right.”

It’s an innovative location in many ways. Those four bars/restaurants operate out of a single kitchen centrally located dead center in the facility. HeadPinz also serves as the operations hub for the six Bowland and HeadPinz bowling centers in the southwest Florida region. This Ft. Myers location opened on July 17, 2015, and has been a huge success ever since. Located two miles from the Southwest Florida International Airport, the 49,000-sq.-ft., stand-alone fun center sits on 7.3 acres adjacent to the Gulf Coast Shopping Center and is the collaborative brainchild of four very special and talented individuals.

First, there are owners Pat and Lisa Ciniello. Pat has a legendary, 35-year history in the bowling industry and is also chairman of QubicaAMF Worldwide. To create this unique bowling-anchored facility, the husband-and-wife team tapped the immense talents of Doug Wilkerson and Stephanie Milligan of Dynamic Designs, a top FEC architectural design firm out of Birmingham, Mich. (Wilkerson is also a partner with Howard Ellman in Dynamic Designs and is president of Studio 41b, a company known for its design of escape rooms, laser tag arenas and more). The result of the collaboration was simply contagious with each person pushing the others, all striving for excellence.

“HeadPinz is the ultimate entertainment destination in southwest Florida,” said Pat Ciniello. “It took many years and the efforts of a lot of people to make my dream a reality. With so much to offer –– bowling, games, Nemo’s Sports Bistro, meeting space and more – HeadPinz is definitely not your dad’s old bowling center.”

HeadPinz uses every cubic inch of space available and yet the design still manages to be wide open, free-flowing, enticing and comfortable. It’s also very efficient. These are the reasons why the average customer stay is three hours!

Fun fact: HeadPinz houses 220,000 feet of cabling, all checked – and double-checked – personally by Pat Ciniello!

Hidden away on the second level is the 2000-sq.-ft. operations command and party/group booking center that integrates with the Ciniellos’ five other bowling centers to capture more operating efficiencies. From that one center, guests can book parties for their desired time and day at any one of the six locations, which helps all run at capacity. The command center was developed by Pat and it runs like a well-oiled engine.

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Making It Special

Doug Wilkerson outlined his team’s eight top design parameters for HeadPinz:

  1. Create a very scalable concept for groups and events with multi-event spaces.
  2. Offer bowling with “suites” that can be opened up and furniture that can be easily repositioned almost like an erector set.
  3. Create a kitchen in the middle to feed each of the four food/beverage venues.
  4. Design spaces that can be converted to a variety of sizes of groups. For example, open a garage door and create a space that can host 100 people.
  5. Embrace old-time bowling lanes. “Pat and Lisa have a passion for bowling,” said Wilkerson. “We wanted to salute the history of bowling with ‘AA Wilson PinBoyz’ –– Wilson is Lisa’s maiden name –– that replicates a 1908 bowling alley with the original old pin spotters, nostalgic music, rubber bowling balls with real pin boys in costume, almost like having a caddy in golf, all to create a unique experience for guests.”
  6. Design the location to control guest flow with a grand entrance, a clear pathway to guest services and showcasing what they have to offer. Following the pathway, customers see the game zone, pizza café, bowling lanes and end up right in front of guest services. (The use of curved/rounded design elements spiraling overhead, suspended from the high ceilings, perfectly matches the center’s curved pathways, railings, and control desk. All are design elements that combine to make the guest feel welcomed and wowed simultaneously.)
  7. Merge the ropes course and laser tag. Wilkerson explained: “The guest becomes a prop in the laser tag arena.”
  8. Utilize every square inch of space in the facility.
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It’s one thing as a design team to come up with such ambitious goals, but it also takes a complete buy-in by ownership to give them the freedom to turn those into reality.

Stephanie Milligan said of the Ciniellos, “I love them both. They’re easy and fun to work with and are always up for the next adventure.” Adding that Pat and Lisa are a very unique couple, she said, “They both trusted Doug and me in the design process to make it fun, enjoyable and classic. They believed in us.”

And it would appear that trust was well placed. HeadPinz has already won some awards: Bowlers Journal International’s 2015 Architecture + Design Award for Best New Center – VIP Area and, more recently, Gulfshore Life magazine readers voted the center tops in the arcade and entertainment center category for Lee County (southwest Florida). “Everyone still keeps going to it to learn about functionality,” Milligan added.

Attractions And Services

The Ft. Myers HeadPinz has a lot to offer guests and to fill up that average three-hour visit:

  • 24 lanes of bowling divided up into three distinct sections: the VIP space (with unique white lanes that have customizable LED lighting) houses eight lanes of HyperBowling, 12 lanes of regulation bowling and four lanes of vintage (circa 1900s) PinBoyz lanes (decorated by Lisa Ciniello)
  • Four bars and four restaurants/snack bars, including Nemo’s Sports Bistro – Pizzeria
  • Laser tag – a 3,500-sq.-ft., 24-vest experience with wind tunnel by LaserBlast
  • Ropes course where guests go into the laser tag space and interact with players (capacity of 30/hour) by Ropes Courses, Inc.
  • Games Zone with 50 of the latest games and a redemption store with access to all of the attractions.
  • Juke ’N’ Box attraction by Studio41b
  • Upgraded couches throughout
  • Movable/sectional couches, chairs, tables with wheels for flexibility
  • Outside patio with full food/beverage service
  • Pool tables
  • Ping-pong tables
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And if that wasn’t enough, there’s more to come.

The Business Model

Pat Ciniello, up in the command center, showed Frank Seninsky how he used to oil the lanes with a hand sprayer before the automatic lane oil machines were invented.

The Ciniellos set out to bring in equal revenues (one-third each) from three major areas: food/beverage, bowling/shoe rental and games/ attractions. What’s happening in practice is pretty close to that plan. According to Pat, the F&B revenue has been increasing slightly, currently at 36 percent (while bowling has down-ticked slightly). Revenue from games and attractions has remained steady at 33 percent.

Whatever, the earnings category percentage breakdown, one thing’s certain: HeadPinz is a hit.

Wearing vintage-style clothing, these employees work the nostalgic PinBoyz lanes. (Photo by Michael Caronchi Studio.)

“The response to HeadPinz has been overwhelming since day one,” said Pat. “Now, almost four years after opening, we continue to push the experiences we deliver to our guests. HyperBowling is the latest – a fun twist on bowling that’s sure to capture the attention of bowlers of all ages. We strive to be a great meeting and entertainment choice for the business community here. What better place to do team building or fundraising than HeadPinz?”

After 4 Years, What’s Next?

Pat and Lisa never sit still. They are preparing to build an adjacent, closely located, but separate, 70,000- sq.-ft., multi-level Fast Trax entertainment center that they will own and operate.

This multi-story, fast-paced go-kart facility will focus on family and group entertainment and have 50,000 sq. ft. on the first level with a 20,000-sq.-ft. mezzanine.

A rendering of the planned Fast Trax go-kart-anchored entertainment center going in next door to HeadPinz.

Attractions planned for Fast Trax include three escape rooms, virtual reality and, perhaps, additional games. In keeping with the idea of centralizing key functions, the main kitchen at HeadPinz will provide the food and beverage for Fast Trax while the command center team will help keep it packed with fun-loving customers.

What’s been outlined above captures just some of the reasons why I think HeadPinz is the most efficient use of space and creative design I have yet encountered in a bowling-anchored FEC, or any FEC for that matter. Fly into Ft. Myers’ RSW airport and take a look for yourself. Note: If you’re into bowling, you’ll especially want to visit since HeadPinz is also a “showcase” for QubicaAMF’s latest technologies and innovations.

A special thank you to Curtis Stavich (General Manager of HeadPinz) for walking me through each section of HeadPinz and providing me with much of the background information and details that were used in this article. Curtis is a very special person and very professional.

July 2019 – RePlay Magazine