WATERLOO – What was once Iowa’s largest bowling alley has been transformed to add skee ball, skill cranes and racing games.
Earlier this year, Cadillac Lanes on La Porte Road underwent a 90-day renovation, closing 14 of its 50 lanes to accommodate a colorful 34-game arcade with video and redemption games and emerging as Cadillac Xtreme Bowling Center.
“There needs to be things to do with your family. … Bowling can still be a main and featured part about what you’re doing, but everybody isn’t about rolling a ball down a lane,” said Rich Eighme, managing owner of The Bowlers Group, which operates Maple Lanes on University Avenue and recently acquired Cadillac.
He said the games are an additional venue for family entertainment in the area and appeal to a wider audience while keeping Cadillac’s bowling operation, which includes the black light Cosmic Rock and Bowl.
While it is a first for the Cedar Valley, Eighme said such transformations are a new trend across the country for alleys with an abundance of lanes and a shortage of serious bowlers to use them.
Also coming will be an upgrade to Cadillac’s automatic bowling scoring system to include side games and other features on the screens.
“Not just 10 frames with a winner at the end. We have games for kids that take 10 shots when they build a monster, they build a character,” Eighme said. Another feature of the scoring system will allow players to scan their faces to be used in onscreen animations.
The new scoring system will come after the women’s state tournament in May, he said.
Eighme said another planned renovation would incorporate a 4,000-square-foot laser tag arena, possibly this summer.
“With laser tag, you can come to Cadillac XBC and never pick up a bowling ball and walk onto a lane, yet you can spend hours there having a great time, whether you’re into tagging one another with laser guns or whether you are into the driver games or the redemption games or the food and beverage opportunities,” Eighme said.
The roots of the Xtreme Bowling Center began to emerge after local bowling legend Adrian Erickson, one of the partners who owned Cadillac Lanes, died in 2014. The surviving partner, Milt Horak, and his family were looking to sell and reached an agreement with Eighme’s Bowlers Group — which consists of Eighme, his father, Fran Eighme and Zachary Beschorner — that would keep the business as a bowling alley, Eighme said. He said the initial meeting between Cadillac and The Bowlers Group came hours after a wind storm tore up Maple’s front exterior.
Eighme said his group was interested in buying Cadillac Lanes — the only other bowling alley in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area — because it gave them options they didn’t have.
Most alleys do a 50-50 split business between hardcore league players and occasional recreational bowlers. Maple Lanes runs about 80 percent league play. Its 32 lanes host 46 leagues.
It’s a good ratio to have, Eighme said, but it means Maple misses out on opportunities on the recreational side. For instance, if a company wanted to host a bowling party for its employees at Maple, they would have to settle for a less-popular night or afternoon because of the league schedules.
With Cadillac XBC, the group plans to route the recreational side — and birthday parties and corporate holiday get-togethers — to the La Porte Road location, Eighme said.
The other reason The Bowlers Group wanted to keep Cadillac afloat was because the area wouldn’t be able to host a state tournament without a second bowling alley, Eighme said.