I’m excited to do the right thing by the sport – We speak to the new owners of The Rec, Horsham

String , String, String, Sick of hearing about string met most days when the announcement came of the famous Airport bowl going to string machines. Cue a welcome message via our Facebook page…

“Hi, I’m the new owner of the Rec Horsham. I’d be interested to have a chat on Friday if you have 5 mins?”

Why wait till Friday, “Hi, sure can, or just let us know how we can help you sir”, our reply.

“I’m fixing up the old bowling site in Horsham West Sussex. We’re calling it The REC Horsham and seem to be building a nice trusted brand for bowling. I’ve got a lot of league bowlers and YBC guys coming to us from the big chains. I’m excited to do the right thing by the sport, so as I see it staying traditional with pin setters. I’m in the process of replacing the capping, gutters and guide rails, which will improve the look and feel. Would you be interested in promoting the centre and all our work?

They had us at “Fixing up” and sealed it with “Excited to do the right thing by the sport”.

So with all the doom and gloom and bowlers thinking the sky is falling in on the sport we have here a story that is true in more places in the UK than you think. Sport bowling has people fighting for it while others proclaim the end.

We wanted to know more and thanks to Nick Mcdowell we got answers from the collective owners with a vision to create something really cool, not least as a music venue at the recently opened Rec Rooms under the lanes.


March 30th – “We’re in, we’ve taken over and we’re making improvements already. Things are going to start going well!” posted on your new facebook page. You have just acquired the centre, What was top of the list on the to do list?

Ha, everything needed doing, it was run down, filthy, the staff lacked motivation, direction and training, customers had deserted the centre and nothing seemed to work (or if it did, it didn’t ever work for very long). We took a deep breath, wrote a very long to-do list and top of that list was the pinsetters.

They’re GS-98’s so not new by any means and they were in what we’d describe as a very poor condition when we took over. Of the 12 lanes in the centre, none were in operational use that first morning when we opened up, tools to get to work on them were limited and spare parts were non-existent. We took the hard decision to mothball the pinsetters on lanes 11&12 immediately as they had already been decommissioned and heavily stripped of parts and were never going to be able to run again in their present state.

We had to be realistic and funds were better spent on those 10 remaining machines to get them to a better standard in the long run. From here we enlisted the help, guidance and technical know how of Colin Small from Bowling Vision to carry out an audit on the 10 remaining pinsetters and putting together a plan of action to get these not only up & running again but also back up to a standard and reliability to meet both open & league bowlers expectations.

This has eaten up far more time and investment than we first anticipated but we’re pretty much there now with them & have a full maintenance programme in place and a team of 3 trained technicians working on them (sometimes around the clock).

The focus now is split between renovating the building and improving the front of house aspect of the bowling offering. We have a timeline for works on the approaches, guttering & barriers as well as improving the visual aspects of the lanes and will be working on a pair of lanes at a time as and when the income allows us to.

The classic but brilliant Summit Century lane machine has been fully serviced, numerous parts fitted, a few nifty upgrades as well as key patterns added to its CPU and we are pleased to say that the lanes themselves are now in great condition too.

Before we get too much into the now, how about the then? Why did you take on Horsham and did you have experience of the leisure activity and sport?

Essentially we were locals who had seen the venue being run into the ground. The reasons for this we aren’t aware of but it is clear to see that the site hasn’t been cared for and the necessary investment put in for many many years and it had got to a particular low point when we took it on.

We come into this as locals who care about a significant building in the Horsham district and want to see the bowling offering remain and thrive.

We saw it as an opportunity to0. Our backgrounds are from marketing including sports, but there has always been that love of sports in our lives both professionally and socially.

Since opening, the reaction from visitors has been very positive. When looking over the project, past reviews of the venue etc. Where did you identify ways offer a far better service?

We are striving to offer a level of service that we’d no only expect but be delighted to receive if we were customers ourselves. As realistically we’re appealing to people just like ourselves to visit The REC as their alley of choice, whether that be for training, competition or leisure & socializing. Tidying up the site and getting the lanes up & running again is just the beginning of stage 1 of a journey that we want to take with loyal customers, friends and the community as a whole that will secure the centre as a bowling hub for decades to come.

Now called The Rec, Horsham, let’s talk about your concept, why the name and what is the theme?

The REC as a name is a nod to the past and essentially came about from the buildings original incarnation as the leisure and recreation centre for the Horsham residents in the 80’s & early 90’s and so the building was simply called the rec or the park rec (as it’s in the centre of Horsham in it’s main park)

The name was mooted in a casual sit down when we were looking over old photos of the site and it stuck. Again this has worked quite well and fits with our ethos of bringing the site back for the community and the subtle nod to its past has pleased many and is a statement from us that we aim to do things right for the town and the bowling community.

The theme..we’re not into theming, we aim for The REC to be a hub for the bowling and local community where people come to enjoy bowling and the social aspects that the sport brings. We are of course renovating the entire site over the next 24 months but we’re putting all we can into the bowling aspect itself.

Other parts of the building included the requisite Laser Quest arena, function rooms for varied group sizes of 30 to 300 and newly opened is The REC Rooms which is the areas only dedicated live music and comedy venue. But key to the plan is the bowling as that’s why we got involved in the first place.

Our sport orientated viewers out there will be delighted to learn you want to embrace the sport of tenpin bowling as much as the recreational and leisure side and intend to have leagues and tournaments. Why is this?

We come into this as sport lovers. Individuals that have always got involved heavily in whatever we lend our hand to. A key focus is inclusivity and the opportunities that bowling can bring to the community which come on many levels. Firstly there is the basic, let’s get people active and we see bowling as an excellent first step. Our lanes have full access for those with varied accessibility needs and although not an endurance sport, the physiological and psychological benefits that can be gained from the sport cannot be overlooked.

From this we build into the sport aspect of bowling. How many leisure bowlers are actually aware of there being local leagues and competitions in their local areas? we’d predict virtually none and we see there is great potential to really revive the sport of bowling in the area, get the average joe bloggs talking about it and put it on the back pages of the papers again, in the sport section where it belongs.

We aim to have as many varied leagues and tournaments as possible and with the help of committed league bowlers who have already stepped up and offered us their time and knowledge we aim to be up and running with sanctioned lanes for the new season. From here we aim to grow and build the reputation of The REC within the bowling community and keep this at the heart of future plans.

As well as thanks for keeping bowling running we should thank you for installing a YBC already. Is this an important part now of your future thoughts in the sport side of the business?

We envisage The REC being a hub for all things bowling, to be an inclusive venue where leisure bowlers can bowl and have a laugh, those who fancy something more can have easy and affordable access to coaching and wherever possible give support to those clubs (whether youth or adult) who want to come on the journey with us. We are distilling a truly open and welcoming ethos here at The REC and literally anybody is welcome to come and help us make this sport as open, inclusive, accessible and friendly as possible. The contact we have had from YBC’s already has been great at it is wonderful to open up each morning on both Saturday’s and Sunday’s and have keen youth bowlers follow me through the doors and stream onto the lanes. We’ve made agreements to offer private bowling and give guaranteed hours on weekends to give as much support to help the clubs grow.

What is planned for the rest of 2018 and going forwards into 2019?

Let’s not kid ourselves here, this is a honest journey we’re taking and we’re not rich people, we took this on as locals who wanted something better for the bowling offering and so all or customers are key to that journey. We’re making changes and improvements in and around the site everyday and the more the centre is used the more we’re able to push straight back into making the bowling aspect world class. Yes we only have 12 lanes but we aim to make these 12 lanes at The REC the best 12 lanes possible but it’s not going to come overnight, this is a ongoing project.

Long term plans are to secure investment to update the pinsetters with something along the lines of GS-X’s and that should secure the future of the venue and true ten pin bowling for the area for the next couple of decades (so if you know of anyone selling off a dozen pinsetters do let us know!).

Visit The Rec of Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TheRECHorsham/


  1. As mentioned in the article this is a work in progress but the initial results have been extremely well received. The REC is supporting league bowlers by opening up early in advance of access by the public and laying fresh oil on a couple of dedicated lanes plus they listen. All things we have been wishing for in a centre and now staffed / managed by those with an interest in the sport!! Car parking can be a pain but apart from that it is superb.

  2. It really is fantastic that this centre is coming back to the sport of tenpin bowling may all of your wishes come true.

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