Last Call: Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Striking Out

Splitsville is my kinda place. I suck at bowling. I’m awesome at drinking. The high-end lane chain is opening its first Texas location in the Arlington Highlands early next month. Last week, a couple of other media types and I got the grand tour. I’d say you could get lost in the place –– it’s as big as a freaking blimp hangar –– but since there aren’t any interior walls that I can recall, just partitions of stylized fences, you can see clear from one side of the 28,000-square-foot space to the other. Now instead of sucking in front of just a couple of people, you can stink up the joint in front of a maximum capacity of about 1,000! Yay.
Splitsvilles in Allen, Dallas, and San Antonio will all be open by the end of 2010. “Arlington doesn’t have much,” said Splitsville general manager Mike Muller, who’s been with the company for about a year but has been in the service industry for about 20. “Our goal and that of retailers here is to be the [Dallas] West End of games,” referring to the competitive action at the forthcoming Cowboys Stadium nearby and noting that in addition to all of the restaurant/bars that have already opened in the Highlands, a comedy club, Mexican restaurant, and hotel are on the way. Right across the parking lot from Splitsville currently are Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen, Piranha Killer Sushi, Blackfinn American Saloon, and Dave & Busters.
“We liked the lifestyle-center part of [the Highlands],” Muller said. “With the new Cowboys stadium coming, it’s a demo where we want to be: [ages] 25 to 55 fun-seekers.
The tour happened around happy hour and was blessedly brief, giving my honey and me ample time to slurp down some complimentary booze.
“I didn’t know you guys were gonna get hammered,” said Jennifer Zmurk, one of our several tour guides.
Sigh. I wanted to say, Honey, if you think four beers apiece in five minutes qualifies as “getting hammered,” you don’t know Weekly employees. Instead, I mumbled something unintelligible and caught myself from sliding off my barstool.
Splitsville, in fact, doesn’t seem to be a bowling alley that just happens to serve sushi and fancy drinks and have a nightclub/bar component. Rather, it’s a place that serves sushi and fancy drinks and has a nightclub/bar component that happens to have some lanes. There are 12, only 12, interspersed throughout the swanky, Atomic Age-looking space. Splitsville is family friendly but only before 8 p.m. Afterward, it’s 21 and up. And at one of the five fully stocked bars, DJs will spin on weekends. “Dancing and nightclubbing will be a big part of what we do,” said Muller. Splitsville also will offer bottle service and, on the weekends, valet parking, and there won’t be any league play. The bathrooms have sparkling chandeliers dangling from the ceilings, and ladies, every stall in the women’s room –– there are 20 in all –– has a door that extends to the floor. The ceilings over the lanes are low to buffer the often-annoying sounds of crashing balls and pins.
Some folks may scoff, “High-end bowling will never work. Bowlers are historically, uh, big-boned, and they like to drink beer –– cheap beer –– and they like cheap food; fresh out of the microwave even is OK. Bowling types aren’t gonna go for fancy martinis,” even though bowling, like martinis, has a retro, Atomic Age charm. “Bowling types,” you go on, unprovoked, “also aren’t gonna go for sushi or be caught dead of emphysema in a non-smoking joint. High-end bowling will never work.”
And maybe you’re right. You hear about all of the cities where upscale 10-pins has worked, but what about the places where it hasn’t? Maybe Fort Worth will shrug at the concept. In any event, you can bet that Arlington has its share of bowlers, who can at least be counted on to keep the place hopping on weekends during the day. Plus, anyone who has even a passing interest in rolling heavy balls at white pins may want to take a spin on Splitsville’s outdoor bowling lane, the first modern outdoor version in the world, according to the Professional Bowlers Association of America. The lane is located on a sprawling covered patio on the side of the Art Deco-looking building.
By the time of the March 4 grand opening, Splitsville expects to have put together a staff of about 165 people. They’re still hiring. GM Muller recommends just showing up in person. For more info, visit –– Anthony Mariani
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