Lane Conditions and Cold Snaps

In last month's article, we touched base on some of the effects weather can have on lane machines, lane conditioner, and ball motion. We wrote about these effects in the sense that the environment has already become more stable. But because of a few recent technical calls, we have decided to release a Special Edition of THE INSIDE LINE, and continue the discussion on how weather can affect lane conditions.

We have found that the biggest problem in a bowling center occurs when there is a drastic and quick temperature change. Kegel's lead chemist, Dennis Sheirs, found this out during the US Open in 1998. For the first two days of the tournament the air conditioner wasn't working in the bowling center, and it was 80 degrees inside the center, and on the lanes.

Sometime in the middle of the afternoon on the second day of the tournament the air conditioning was fixed. Then during that evening someone cranked the air conditioning way down and by the next day both the bowling center, and the lane temperature, were 60 degrees.

The bowlers started practice that morning and found the lane pattern played 10 boards tighter. Luckily, since Kegel was doing the lanes and strictly following our Process Verification Procedure, we could prove it wasn't because the laneman, or the lane machine, did something different. But we did learn a valuable lesson; when doing lanes, take control of the climate control system!

How does this affect you in daily life?

We find the same thing can happen when you typically get a cold snap up north and it's instant. Normally you will see everything get a little tighter at first. Then as everything goes through equilibrium, and bowling centers kick on the heat, all the other properties change, and eventually everything will settle back in. That's when the lanes will start to hook more from the point where they got tighter at.

We said before that when the temperature of lane conditioner gets lower, the viscosity goes up, so the ball hooks more, and it does; but that's only one part of the equation. The other part of the equation is the surface tension also increases, which makes the lane conditioner move more until everything settles back down. This can last over a week because during a cold snap, the whole system is in flux.

What else can the weather do to my lanes?

During the summer time when the humidity is typically greater, synthetic lanes on top of wood lanes tend to be a bit more crowned towards the gutter outside of the second arrow. We know from our testing, crowned lanes tend to create "hang spots".

But in the winter time, when the heat is turned on in the bowling center or humidity decreases, synthetic lanes installed over wood lanes tend to depress, or the crowns decrease, which makes it easier for the ball move more towards the center. In other words, hook more. That change however takes a few weeks to fully occur.

If your area gradually gets colder throughout the year, you won't experience drastic changes because everything is just slowly moving there. It is those abrupt environmental changes that create these effects.

But from our experience, in most scenarios, those quick "cold snaps" (change from warm to cold), tend to make lanes play tighter first. Then, as the inside environment equalizes and the heater settles things down, lanes depress; that's when we see more hook again.

So as we stated before, typically in the summertime, synthetic lanes installed over wood lanes tend to crown a little bit, and in the winter time, they tend to depress. In recent topography measuring using the Kegel LaneMapper, we have more than a few documented examples of lanes changing over .030" from summer to winter.

UPDATE: We now have documented examples of lanes changing up to .070" from summer (high humidity) to winter (low humidity). In our research, we have found this drastic change happens only when synthetic overlays are on top of wood lanes. Synthetic panels on top of MDF, HDF, or PSL do not show much change from summer to winter - only a few thousands of an inch.  Extreme lane shape change by overlays on top of wood lanes is caused by the wood lane underneath becoming "looser and looser" from years of not receiving attention as they did when resurfaced regularly. Basically, the toes screws that hold the boards together, and the screws holding the wood lane to the levelers, start backing out from the constant pounding of the bowling ball onto the lane, making the lane act like an accordion. Read more about Changing Lanes...

What do we suggest for quick weather changes?

Don't respond to the change too fast - give everything a chance to settle down and get back into equilibrium. Most of the time, our first response is we have to change something when somethings goes haywire - it's human nature.

You are better off to first perform your Process Verification Procedures to ensure your machine is operating correctly, your cleaner is being mixed correctly, and if so, just let everything settle down. Otherwise, you're going to be trying to change something while everything is transitioning.

A non-bowling analogy to the transition is like when you get into a pool for the first time. The water may feel cold, and that could be your first reaction, but if you stay in for a little while, you start to adjust to the temperature.  Your core body temperature does not change; you just begin to acclimate to it.

After everything have settled down though, it may be entirely possible you have to adjust your oil pattern in order to keep your bowlers closer to what they are used to. For that just give us a call - the Kegel LaneMapper has provided us with insight and answers much quicker than in the past.

To end, and we can't stress enough, every center is unique and the solutions to any problems are just as unique. Just know that Kegel's Tech Support department is full of dedicated people trying to do the same thing you are; provide our customers with the best possible experience as we can. And don't forget, we are only a free phone call away.

Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson began his career in the bowling business in 1976 at the age of 15 working for the Florida based Galaxy Lanes chain. Beginning from the ground up in center operations, he has also been a long time Pro Shop proprietor, 40 lane center General Manager, PBA National Tour player, multi PBA Regional Champion, PBA Player Services Director, and even a bowling writer. Since 2004 he has been working with Kegel.

Ted has also coached bowling on many different levels. From basic Learn to Bowl classes and private lessons while in the Pro Shop business, he was also head coach for Florida State University, countless PBA professionals, and even coached Lisa Wagner to her last Player of the Year award in 1993. While working for the PBA, the late great Dick Weber even asked for some of his time. An experience Ted says "he will always cherish". Dick immediately won a Senior Sweeper and gave him $300. It was the most Ted ever received for an hour lesson, and it came from one of the greatest players of all time.

Recently, Ted has been deeply studying topography and the effects it has on ball motion. He is also on the Kegel Team helping make decisions for many of the oil patterns Kegel uses in competitions world wide, which has led to further development of Kegel's lane machines. Ted has a complete and unique understanding of bowling from many different sides.

Ted also named the world's and Kegel's most popular lane machine the "Kustodian ION" (pronounced "EON" in Europe) and spearheaded the creation of Kegel's Navigation Oil Patterns. The creativity may be heredity. In 1968 Ted's father created the famous Dodge Super Bee logo and spearheaded that marketing campaign.