Bowling lanes at Allstars Weston

Key considerations for introducing tenpin bowling to a new facility

So, you’re considering starting a tenpin bowling business, but the building you’re eyeing hasn’t previously housed bowling lanes. Don’t worry; it’s a common scenario. Transforming a non-bowling space into a vibrant bowling alley requires careful planning and consideration.

No project is without its challenges, but rest assured, we’re here to help. Whether it’s overcoming space constraints, navigating regulatory hurdles, or addressing unforeseen obstacles, our team is experienced in finding solutions.

Here’s some of our top advice on what you need to think about before getting the ball rolling.

1. Check Your Planning Permission

First things first, ensure your planning use class allows for leisure activities. Without the proper permissions, you might face legal hurdles down the road. If you’re unsure, consult with local authorities to confirm.

There are a broad range of other considerations relating to utilities and licensing. Check out of blog: How much does it cost to build a bowling alley, for more detailed analysis of these facets of the project.

2. Lane Configuration and Quantity

Determining the number of lanes you can fit into the space is crucial – at the simplest point, you need to know that you can install enough lanes to make the business viable. While there’s no ‘magic number’ of how many lanes to have, broadly it’s always better to have as many as possible, without prejudicing a varied activity profile to drive customer revisit rates and off-peak dwell time of course.

As a very rough guide, for a city centre, multiactivity venue with bar, you would look to install a minimum of four lanes. For a more out of town location you’ll ideally want a minimum of eight lanes.

There is also a compelling economy of scale to consider with bowling lanes, as some of the larger expenses are only needed once, regardless of the number of lanes, for example the server and software licences, and the delivery and installation costs don’t scale directly.

When planning where to put your lanes it is worth remembering that you don’t have to have them running in one long line, side by side. You can be creative. Locating pairs of lanes in different sections of the building to suit the space, for zoning or to create VIP areas can work beautifully. However, where possible we strongly recommend that you keep the lanes in pairs as they share a ball return.

It is becoming increasingly rare for venues to install full length bowling lanes. We typically install lanes of between 18m – 23m. Lanes can easily be customised to fit the available space. If you have the perfect building but it simply can’t accommodate tenpin bowling lanes then you could consider Duckpin Social lanes, which can be as short as 9.5m.

Remember, it’s always good to diversify your activity offering to make use of tricky spaces. See our blog for further guidance: Choosing the Right Mix of Activities

Our team are very experienced with maximising the utilisation of a space. So, please feel free to get in touch and we will be happy to advise; there might be many more options and possibilities than you realise.

3. Space Constraints: Height

As well as suitable length, bowling lanes require a fair amount of height, due to space required to access the top of the pinsetters. You will need to check that there’s sufficient height clearance for the installation depending on your choice of ball return and whether you want Spark.

  • Over lane ball return: minimum of 305mm from the floor base to the top of the lane surface – 203mm for Duckpin Social.
  • Under lane ball return: minimum of 445mm from the floor base to the top of the lane surface.


  • Standard bowling & Duckpin Social – Lane surface to ceiling: minimum of 3000mm
  • Spark bowling – Lane surface to ceiling: minimum of 3300mm

4. Floor Loadings

Bowling lanes and pinsetters are fairly heavy. You will need to be sure that the floor can bear this weight. We advise that a Structural Engineering Consultant review the building to assess the viability of your project. We will be able to provide you with a guide to the loading of your proposed equipment which can be shared with the engineer and offer any other guidance they might need.

5. Noise

Noise and its impact on neighbours and surrounding buildings is an important consideration. Tenpin bowling does generate an unavoidable amount of loud noise at times – particularly the ball impacting the lane or striking the pins. We advise that you check whether there are any noise restrictions in the planning conditions or lease for the building.

If you’re in a multi-use space, such as a hotel, leisure centre or shopping mall there may be a Retail Fit-Out Guide or similar which you should consult. Regardless, it’s absolutely key to consider this at an early stage – some of the noise limiting treatments may need to be applied beneath the lanes, so it is critical to action this well before the lanes are installed. Adding in acoustic treatment under the lanes after the installation will prove very costly.

Should you have any concerns then we can recommend an experienced tenpin bowling Acoustics Consultants who can review the impact and identify necessary noise treatments.

Unloading a lorry

6. Physical Accessibility

It’s important to consider the logistics of unloading the equipment, as it often arrives on containers and curtain-sided trailers. Adequate parking and a large loading bay are essential for smooth delivery. 

You’ll need to evaluate if the building’s entrances can accommodate the bulky bowling equipment. Look for double-width doors (at least 1.8m wide) to facilitate easy entry. If you’re looking to put the lanes anywhere other than the ground floor is the access wide enough for heavy 5m long parts?

7. Holding Space

While the lanes are being built, you’ll need a designated area, next to the location of the lanes, where we store the equipment. This space should be roughly the same footprint as the lanes or at the very least two-thirds. Typically, this area is later repurposed into a seating area, concourse, or bar.

8. Working Requirements: Lighting & Power

If you are planning on deploying Spark bowling then it is important to carefully consider proposed environmental lighting, as this can impact the effectiveness of the Spark nodes.

Brunswick pinsetters require 3-phase power. We can advise on the amount of power draw required for your installation to give to your M&E consultant. They can then ensure that you’re able to get sufficient power into the building to run your lanes as well as everything else required for your business. 

As would be expected, there will need to be adequate lighting and sufficient power during the installation. We will provide you with clear guidelines of what we need prior to the installation beginning, so you’ll always have the information you need to hand to make sure everything goes smoothly.

9. Navigating Issues

All of that said – we’re talking about finding the ideal location here…which of course might not be possible. Luckily, we have installed equipment in many non-ideal situations! Our planning and installations teams are masters at problem solving. If you have any concerns about access to the site or the location of the lanes please speak to us; if there’s a way to make it happen, we will find it.

To conclude:

Transforming a non-bowling space into a thriving tenpin bowling alley is an exciting endeavour. By carefully considering the factors outlined above and collaborating with experienced professionals, you can create a destination that delights bowlers of all ages. Success lies in meticulous planning and proactive problem-solving – something we are very adept at.

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