History and Background of Prosperity Lanes
Initially, this is what we had to deal with;
A year and some months from inception we have a letter of commitment. Tom says congratulations but it has been a long haul and I won't believe it until I see an actual progress payment in our account!
Construction begins and we open our doors Sept. 2001. Start to open takes 3 years. The naysayers change from "it will never happen ", to "they'll be broke in 6 months!"
We begin planning as a 16-lane house. Revise it into an 18-lane house with a 19-stool bar and 4 tables, snack bar, pro shop, and arcade. Add in a control desk, business office, 2 modern bathrooms, and you have Prosperity Lanes all housed in a 15,288 S.F. building. This works out to 750 S.F. per lane compared to an industry standard of 1250 S.F. Of building per lane - and our facility is considered spacious!
By the end of the next day I had met with a real estate agent, learned the details of the sale (it was a balance of a lease with a 10 year option remaining), and parted with a $5000.00 deposit. Now I am an orderly reasoned person. I have even been accused of being calculating - a word I don't accept - but this looked like a great opportunity and I sensed that I could apply enough reasoned thought into it until it became someone else's opportunity. One day later I was the possessor of an accepted offer. It had all gone so well, I wondered what would go wrong to make things more normal. The answers, when they came, came in spades.
What I had purchased was the remainder of a barely legible lease, with a final 10-year extension yet to be exercised, for the operation of a grocery store. The seller, the realtor, and the realtor's attorney all assured me that the lease was assumable, and that it was assumable with a change of use. With this information I went about locating the core of people who were willing to gamble on this premise, and above all else wanted to see bowling preserved in our town. In the real estate market there was almost instantly a lot of clamoring among interested people with a desire to obtain the lease. There were to be many, many times in the future that I wished they had obtained it also.
In a matter of days we had accumulated a sizable investment beginning and deposited it in the local Bank of America. By the end of the second week a rough draft of a business plan emerged (The first of 12 additional revisions), and we had engaged a local attorney to write business articles and form a company for the purpose of building and operating a bowling alley.
The first setback came when one of the four owners of our new aquisition declined to accept us as the new leasehold tenants. The second and third owners, who were brother and sister, made a decision that we were a welcome change, within our rights, and accepted us without reservation. The forth owner, who is also a sister to the other two, took the position that we were completely unsuitable and forbid us to do anything other than operate the entire facility as a grocery store! This is a position she has not deviated from over the past four years and it is unlikely there is an amiable solution to this particular ownership interest.
A year was consumed in purchasing the interest of the first owners. Changes of use agreements were prepared for the remaining three, of course the fourth owner refused to sign, but the other two did, and as this is being written we have purchased the ownership interest of the brother. We hope to acquire a third interest sometime in the fall of 2002. With a first 1/4th in the bag, negotiations under way for the 2nd quarter, changes of use in hand and a sizable investment in the construction account we begain to seriously look for the financing, without which there would be no bowling alley.
Securing the Loan
The application took more than 2 months to assemble and when it was submitted we had high expectations of a speedy approval. Some of us were bank customers, and almost all were also local business people of long standing. Additionally the individual investors had excellent credit histories.
When The Bank of America failed to return with a commitment we had to accept the thought that a rejection to our loan was a high probability. More weeks were consumed in preparing a new loan application, which we submitted to Sierra West Bank and later to The Bank of the West. Locally, Citizens Bank expressed an interest in our project and we submitted a business plan together with capitalization tables, operating expense and profit and loss projections. Inexplicably they declined the project without bothering to take it to their loan committee.
During this process we had acquired approval on a lease/option contract but the amount was insufficient to construct the project and the costs were so high that I became convinced that too little money at too high a price were a guarantee of a disaster in the making. Even though we had no loan commitment from a conventional lender, I reluctantly cancelled our commitment to the lease.
A bright spot in the process was the fact that we had applied for City Redevelopment Funds through the Sierra Economic Development District. Thomas Dille wrote the application and made the presentation. The City approved us for a supplemental loan and we had a beginning. The only flaw in an otherwise good beginning was the fact that at this point, with the cancellation of the lease, it was supplemental to nothing!
The picture at this point was not really great. We had failed to obtain funding at 4 banks and had turned back the only source of funding we did have. Conventional affordable lending was looking bleaker and bleaker.
During this time Greg Francis, (Francis, Scinto & Associates) who had done profit and loss statements for our loan proposals, mentioned that from time to time he was in contact with investment money people, importantly he also suggested that he write an investment proposal and mail it to potential lenders. We were glad to accept this help. At the same time one of our investors (Allan Nystrom) talked with a loan officer in his own bank. This all culminated in a call from Thomas Kunkel a commercial loan writer with Wells Fargo. Tom met with us, and in startling contrast to the other banks, he came prepared to talk. He immediately liked our project, and we left the meeting believing we had at last found our funding. Another complete loan package requiring 6 more months, and we had a loan commitment! Conventional money, reasonable rates, and SBA involvement. Fabulous!
By now the total loan applications, including financial statements and tax returns, which were now in their second year, would have easily reached 6 feet or more.
By this time the doubters were openly saying it would never happen and even one of our own investors referred to our project as "the imaginary bowling alley".
Every foot of electrical conduit was removed. All the plumbing except for one single toilet was pulled out as well. Finally even this remaining toilet went. Heating and cooling duct was removed and the old roof mounted heaters were jettisoned over the side. The suspended ceiling was dropped on the floor and taken out. Hundreds of pieces of insulation came with the ceiling and were also removed. Thousands of floor tiles were lifted and disposed of. Walls were scraped and cleaned. It was a lot of work, and the small group of dedicated people above did all of it. Occasionally they brought some help, and at times interested people would stop by and lend a hand as well. Clean up committees were formed and on the weekends the balance of the investors would fill the ranks and then 14 or 15 people would clean up, scrape, load, and sweep. Then the work would begin again.
Once the work of reinforcing the ceiling cells was complete (750 ceiling studs installed by glue and screws 16ft. off the floor), work began on rebuilding the sewer system. The ceiling was then insulated, the raised floor in the area back of the lane approaches was constructed (175 tons of crushed sand and 75 c.y. of concrete all ultimately placed by hand), storefront windows were framed in, insulated, and sheet rocked. The entire sprinkler system was reconfigured (700 pipe cuts and re-assemblies) with new recessed sprinkler heads, to match the new ceiling.
Electrical included a complete new service panel and outside PG & E service drop, along with all new interior service runs. Even the yard lights required redoing. New plumbing, framing, painting, and many other crafts went into remodeling. Some was contracted; much was done by the same people who had been there all along. We had a plan, a lot of discussion - and freely changed and adapted as we progressed. The humor was "we'll decide how it is to be done, and the person doing the work will do it his way anyway." It almost always went well, and the end result was impressive.
Along with the work came the equipment and material. This included lumber, steel, tools, trucks, trailers, loaders, backhoes, forklifts, compressors, power tools, and much more. All as before was provided by the investors doing the work - none of it received compensation.
Inside work progressed well but the project lacked counters. In particular we needed a main control counter, a snack bar, bar and back bar, work counters and cabinets in the pro shop, storage cabinets for janitorial supplies and electrical panels, and kitchen cabinets. Keith Miller built each of these items in the cabinet shop at Milhous Boys Ranch. Sylvia Bonivert stained every piece of it. Dozens of tasks were undertaken and slowly the work progressed. Evelyn organized the weekend work parties and cut hundreds of pieces of framing to size. Howard worked on forms, concrete repairs, painted handrails and installed siding. Luanua caulked, Stephanie repaired light fixtures. Don ground on the old tilt-up concrete walls, Phil removed sheet rock and power washed exterior walls. Judy cleaned and painted. Lennis appeared with the lunch order in between sanding and cleaning. By now the "never happen" folks were saying "they'll be broke in 6 months'".
Lane beds and pinsetters, and then the computer scoring followed installation of sound and special lighting equipment. Finally in mid September we opened the doors and immediately the first league bowling commenced. Chaos had nothing on us! Initially and for months after, it took a minimum of 2 people in the back to keep the machines running. Often it took more. Eventually things settled down and we now operate a full house with a regular compliment of staff. Life still gets chaotic but our reliability is getting better, most of the time, and Prosperity Lanes has steadily improved its ability to serve its customers. There is no doubt we beat up on the bowlers pretty badly during this time but they hung in, and we will always appreciate that.
We are just finishing our 10th month, summer leagues are drawing to a close, and we will soon start our second year.
There is no question but that we are on a steep learning curve. That being said we have widespread community support, our leagues are growing and open play is attracting new bowlers each day. Prosperity Lanes has been a success from the day it opened and we recognize it is our job and opportunity to keep it so.
Prosperity Lanes has been referred to as the house that bowlers built. Quite literally the belief and dedication of the investors were the ingredients that made this project possible. First they got to put their money into the venture. This gave them a front row opportunity to work evenings, weekends and any possible spare time they had, for month after month. Now, even though we are sort of complete we are still Under Construction and will be for quite some time.
Thank you for hanging in through all this rambling. Your opinions of our house are important to us. Please click on the link below and give us your input. What do you like about our center? (Start with this for a puffing up first!) What constructive criticism can you offer to make it better? What is your opinion of our name? We will pay attention to every response - but only if you sign it!