How Much Does it Cost to Open a Bowling Alley?

Last Updated on December 27, 2023
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Although it is really fun and most of the time worthwhile as a business venture to open a bowling alley, it can be pretty daunting as well. So how much does it cost to open a bowling alley and where exactly do you start?

This article will give you a better understanding of what you need to buy when opening up a bowling alley and how much everything will cost.

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Bowling Alley?

Opening a bowling alley will cost anywhere between $80,000 and $500,000 or more, depending on several factors, like its size, its location, and the features you want it to have.

All of the different administrative costs will be among the first things you will have to consider when starting your bowling alley.

These are the taxes, licensing fees, and costs related to registering your business, as well as all of the other government-related paperwork fees. Another cost you should consider is financing. Before you begin the project you must first have the financing in place.

These fees will vary considerably depending on your location. When it comes to the US, you should expect an average cost of several hundred dollars for the business creation fees and another hundred dollars for insurance. A bowling alley will need pretty expensive insurance, but the setup and size of the alley will ultimately dictate the costs.

If you want to invest in creating a website to help boost the business right from the start, then expect to spend at least $100 for a website, as long as you build it yourself, as a professionally built one can cost several thousand dollars as well. Advertising is a few thousand dollars as well but the exact costs will depend on your approach.

As with any business, before you can make any money, you will have to pay the related taxes. Although these aren’t remarkably high when you start, over time, corporate taxes will become a big part of your spending. Make sure you get used to adding and planning them in your operating expenses so that you won’t have financial issues over time.

You can always talk to an accountant or CPA to address issues of operating expenses and taxes.

Costs related to the bowling alley location

Location is among the most important expenses when it comes to a business and it will probably vary to a big extent. Where you’ll have your bowling alley placed is very important, as well as whether you’re renting an existing space or building a new one.

Starting costs will be considerably lower if you’re renting a place in an existing building. This changes when you want to build your own bowling alley, as you’ll obviously be paying a bigger cost upfront.

You might also like our articles on the cost of opening a Skating Rink, Hookah bar, or Restaurant.

VIP Bowling AlleyWhen looking to rent a space, make sure you get measurements of the rooms and then give this information to a bowling alley builder or architect so that you can confirm that the space is enough for your project.

And since we’re talking about the size of the space, the square footage will have a huge impact on the costs, as well as on the number of individual lanes you will be able to build. It’s obvious that a three-lane alley will be smaller than a thirty-lane alley, and although you will spend less in rental costs for the first one, you will also be able to host fewer customers.

Keep in mind that you’ll also have to consider other amenities you want to add to the space, aside from the lanes themselves. As a general rule, you will need about 2,000 square feet per lane. This means that having just 12,000 sq ft, you won’t be able to build 12 individual lanes. Usually, the bowling area will be built to occupy a maximum of 50% of the building space.

A four-lane establishment will be built on at least 8,000 square feet. Most of the places will rent buildings for about $10 to $20 per square foot, although there are others that charge $40 or more. This means that it will be really hard to make the needed money to pay the costs of running your business from bowling revenue alone. This is why most bowling alleys offer other services as well, like laser tag, a game room, dining, or a bar, to have other sources of revenue.

To get a clearer idea of the costs of rental, you will have to look around the area where you want to open your business, check the square footage of the available buildings, and then multiply the average value by the total square feet you need.

Necessary Equipment to Open a Bowling Alley

You will have to consider the space and the lanes but aside from this, you will also need the equipment used in your bowling alley business. Pinsetters, scoreboards, lighting, shoe rental, bowling balls, and pins are just some of the pieces of equipment you will have to consider.

Depending on the types of equipment you get, the costs will vary considerably. As a general rule, expect a cost between $45,000 and $60,000 per lane for the equipment alone. The price per lane will usually go down as the number of lanes increases. This means that an 8-lane alley will have higher individual prices for equipment than a 16-lane center.

Staff Costs

As long as you want to run a bowling alley alone, with no other staff, this shouldn’t be a big concern. But as soon as you hire someone, you will have to consider a good chunk of additional cash going towards their salary.

A big part of your monthly expenses will go towards payroll and payroll taxes even if you only have several employees.

Additional costs

The final bill of running a business also has several other costs you should consider like decorations, cleaning, utilities, payments for needed software licenses, and so on. Temperature control and lights are a must for any business, but you might also want to add some basic decorations, as well as occasional holiday decorations.

Usually, centers use payment software. This is part of the POS system most of the time and is provided by the company making the computerized scoring system. Most companies will include the price of the POS system in the quoted price of a certain number of lanes.

Final words

The price of a bowling alley will mostly depend on what you want to build and where you want to build it. You’ll likely spend anywhere between $80,000 and $500,000, depending on the size of your bowling alley, its location, and the amenities and features you want it to have.

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