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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Bowlers Strike It Rich with Sunset Center

2 May 2005

The most expensive bowling center in the nation opened last month at the Sunset Station casino in Henderson.

Station Casinos Inc. Chief Financial Officer Glenn Christenson believes the $26 million is money well spent.

"We think we'll get at or above our typical (return on investment) hurdles," Christenson said. "It drives traffic and people's entertainment habits as well. If people normally go to Sunset Station, they'll probably continue to do so."

Bowling alleys have become a typical feature at the major locals casinos. Station's Texas Station and Santa Fe Station in North Las Vegas feature large bowling centers. Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Sam's Town, Orleans and Suncoast properties also have bowling centers.

Sunset Station's 76,000 square-foot bowling center, called Strike Zone, features 42-inch plasma screen televisions between each pair of lanes, eight 16-inch projections screens, a full service bar with lane servers a 50,000-watt Bose sound system, adjustable-size meeting rooms and a video arcade. On weekends the center hosts "cosmic bowling," where lights are dimmed and features of the room, including the carpet, glow in the dark.

Sunset Station General Manager Pat Kearns said the center "surpasses anything ever seen in bowling centers" and is aimed at attracting bowlers "from around the country" in addition to locals.

Christenson declined to say how many people come through the company's other bowling alleys on a daily or weekly basis. But he said bowling remains a key casino attraction that falls just below movie theaters in terms of generating foot traffic.

Bowling leagues in particular attract a lot of customers, he said.

"There's not that much first-class bowling product in Henderson," he added.

The $26 million pricetag includes the bowling center in addition to other amenities added as part of the expansion, such as additional slot machines placed near the bowling center entrance, he said.

About 7 percent of locals surveyed in the latest local survey conducted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said they bowl for fun. That was much fewer than the 28 percent who said they went to the movies and the 21 percent who said they gamble. It also ranked lower than eating out, shopping and golf. But more people said they bowled than those who said they went boating, cycled or played tennis.

Station Casinos purchased the site of the defunct Castaways hotel and casino, which was home to Las Vegas' largest bowling center. Christenson said the closure of the Castaways didn't influence the company's decision to open Strike Zone because Sunset Station is primarily patronized by people who live within three to five miles of the property.