Professor Rolls $1.7 Million Deal

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jul. 17, 1995 12:00 am  

Newman McGee Becomes Kingpin of Pulaski County Bowling Centers

A $1.7 million deal that quietly began in March has finally rumbled into view. Newman E. McGee Jr. bought the New Pike Lanes at 2679 Pike Ave. in North Little Rock and the Sherwood Bowling Center at 119 Club Road in Sherwood.

McGee, who already owned the two Professor Bowl centers in Little Rock, did more than just tighten his grip on the Pulaski County bowling market.

The Little Rock businessman now owns all 134 lanes of it.

His investment includes a 6.8-acre site on Warden Road in Sherwood, where he intends to further expand his newly assembled $3.7 million bowling empire.

"We're not ready to announce anything at this time," McGee says. "We do plan within the next 18 months to develop it into a major recreational system."

Besides bowling, the envisioned attractions will be a fitness center and recreational center — all geared toward family fun for all ages.

Newman purchased the North Little Rock and Sherwood bowling centers and undeveloped land from Carl Richard Bowl Inc. of Joplin, Mo.

"It was a chance to sell something and make a little money," says Barry Richard, vice president of Carl Richard Bowl Inc. "That makes a nice package for them to own all the bowling centers in the area."

Carl Richard announced plans to develop an 80-lane bowling center on the Warden Road site near the old Twin City Drive-In. The project, touted as the largest of its kind in Arkansas, was scheduled to open in 1994 at a cost $5 million but never materialized.

It was dubbed Bowling World II, in reference to the 72-lane Bowling World that Carl Richard operates in Fort Smith. The corporation also owns two bowling centers in Joplin: Fourth Street Bowl, a 40-lane facility, and Bowl East, a 32-lane facility.

Bowling for Dollars

McGee doesn't plan to rename the 32-lane North Little Rock operation or the 30-lane Sherwood center to correspond with his Professor Bowls in Little Rock.

The business moniker is a reference to McGee's doctorate and his day job as a health education professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

"I don't bowl," McGee confesses. "I'm interested in it as a business and promoting it as a family recreation."

His interest was piqued during the 1960s when he was working as recreation director and organizing activities for students at what was then Little Rock University.

He started studying this thing called bowling and its wide appeal. McGee embraced the concept of buying the most modern equipment and installing it in a visually attractive building with sunlit windows to distinguish the facility from the dark, honky tonk, pool hall atmosphere of older bowling alleys.

McGee began his bowling enterprise in 1976 with the 36-lane Professor Bowl South at 8624 Interstate 30 in southwest Little Rock. He followed that in 1986 with the 36-lane Professor Bowl West at 901 Towne Oaks Drive in west Little Rock.

The Little Rock operations generate $2.5 million-$3 million in sales each year. North Little Rock and Sherwood are expected to add a combined $1.2 million.

In addition to the recreational draw of bowling, McGee has capitalized on issues attracting the business world. Companies are looking for constructive ways to lower stress among employees, which leads to bowling teams and business outings.

The conference centers at Professor Bowls are used by corporate cliental for workshops, seminars and meetings. During breaks, participants are free to bowl, play pinball or shoot pool.

This in turn ties in with promoting lifetime wellness programs to improve employee health and productivity.

"That's becoming kind of a trend," McGee says. "But beer, pizza and bowling still go together."



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