When Ten Pin Fun Center finally opened in May of 2019, the Turlock community never could have guessed that a global pandemic would shut down the highly-anticipated bowling alley less than a year later. After closing their doors in mid-March, the popular entertainment center will reopen with an abundance of health and safety precautions at the end of the month.
As restaurants, retail stores and other nonessential businesses closed in conjunction with statewide shelter-in-place orders three months ago, Ten Pin followed suit and shut down all of its operations on March 18. While other restaurants throughout the city remained open to provide takeout and curbside meals, the Deadwood Social restaurant inside of Ten Pin closed along with the center’s other amenities.
According to General Manager Mike Eggert, Ten Pin had to lay off a majority of its 130 employees due to the pandemic. When they reopen on June 29, only 65 percent of staff will return. The first year of business for any new establishment can be one of the hardest to survive, and the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 came just as Ten Pin was celebrating a profitable start.
“Our numbers were very strong and attendance was increasing 10 to 12 percent each month since opening. Our strongest month was December thanks to the holidays and Christmas parties, and then going into this year January and February were almost better than December,” Eggert said. “All of the data and information we had available said that we were just exceeding expectations with revenue, and then this happened.”
Eggert and a facilities manager were essentially the only Ten Pin employees who remained at work over the last three months. They were kept plenty busy during that time, maintaining the 65,000 square-foot building by regularly performing preventative maintenance on bowling machinery and arcade games.
Then on June 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the word that entertainment centers could reopen. Eggert had previously eyed July 4 as his expected reopening date, he said, and was surprised the announcement came earlier than anticipated. The center is taking the time until June 29 to properly train employees on all of the new health guidelines they’ll be abiding by, including monitoring themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 prior to coming into work.
“We had the plan ready to execute,” Eggert said. “All we needed was the date.”
Plenty will be different when Ten Pin reopens, from stickers on the floor to promote social distancing to sanitization stations in every corner. All employees will be masked and a designated cleaning team will be in a constant flurry of activity making sure every surface is kept clean — even the arcade games, which have also been rearranged so that they’re all six feet apart. If gamers are uncomfortable waiting for the cleaning team to pass through, alcohol wipes will also be available for cleaning buttons and joysticks.
As for bowling, the number of lanes available will be cut from 34 to 17 to ensure distancing between groups. Ball racks will now be empty and bowlers will now receive their bowling ball from one of the party rooms, which has been converted into a cleaning station and pickup area. Every ball will be cleaned and sanitized between each use.
“We even have special brushes for each finger hole,” Eggert said.
While laser tag will remain closed, other Ten Pin features like the beer garden, Deadwood Social and the bars will also open once more come June 29. The reopening comes as Stanislaus County sees a steep increase in coronavirus numbers. As of June 16, there were 1,242 cases and 35 deaths, with the County reporting a record one-day total of 102 new cases just days ago on June 14.
Still, Eggert isn’t overly concerned about customers returning after looking at similar entertainment centers in other states and how they’ve recovered. For example, a bowling alley in Texas which reopened in May saw 20 percent of its customers return at first, he said, but now is seeing things improve with about 60 percent of customers returning.
“I’ve heard both sides. I’ve heard people who are concerned about coming to a place where there’s so much touching, and I’ve seen people pull into our parking lot asking us when we’ll be open and what precautions we’ll be taking,” he said. “Safety and the health of every guest and every employee is a top priority for everyone in the Ten Pin family.”
Other changes include no reservations for birthdays, corporate events or groups larger than 10, Eggert added, and the center’s hours have temporarily changed. Beginning June 29, Ten Pin will be open noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“I want to be optimistic, but looking at true data says we’ll have a slow start,” Eggert said.