Owners of the Splitsville restaurant and bowling alley in Tampa are putting on their Mickey ears.
After years of negotiation and planning with Disney, Splitsville will soon open a new location in one of the world's highest-profile tourist destinations: Downtown Disney. And compared with the location in Tampa, it will be huge.
The new Splitsville location will take over the former Virgin Records store and span roughly twice the size of the Channelside location — 50,000 square feet. That's about half the size of an average Walmart store.
"This is not like your daddy's bowling alley," said Splitsville co-owner Guy Revelle.
The newest Splitsville will be geared to the roughly 15 million visitors who walk along Downtown Disney's main drag each year. While the theme will remain family-friendly bowling, the location is spurring changes.
Splitsville officials spent three years working with Disney to refine the theme, menu, prices, format and operating hours so the location would work with other new restaurants and attractions under construction in the area.
The Disney location will have two floors with a total of 30 bowling lanes and about 750 seats, including the pods where people sit while bowling. Its kitchens will serve everything from chicken fingers and wings to pizza and sushi — anything sharable — plus breakfast for tourists, Revelle said. Like the original Splitsville, the Disney location will be something of a combination bowling alley-restaurant-bar-party venue.
To make the bowling more friendly to families visiting the Disney parks, Splitsville dropped its typical format of selling a set number of games. Instead, guests will pay hourly for bowling.
"At a busy bowling alley, you might not know a lane will be open for a couple hours after someone finishes their game — whenever that is," Revelle said. "At Disney, you'll know your lane will be available at an exact time."
Revelle's company already oversees a series of the largest locations in Channelside, including the original Splitsville, Stumps Supper Club, Howl at the Moon and Tinatapa's. Despite all of Channelside's struggles, Revelle said his company's operations have seen growth since last year.
In the roughly 10 years since opening the first Splitsville at Channelside, the company has opened locations in south Miami, north Dallas and Fredericksburg, Va. The company informally plans to open one new location a year for the next several years.
The project at Downtown Disney comes as Disney overhauls much of the popular tourist draw, with new restaurants and a new movie theater. At one point, Disney envisioned a new Hyperion Wharf area akin to a classic boardwalk, though some of those plans are on hold.
That makes Splitsville a major part of the renovations that remain, along with a new Harley-Davidson store, a new LEGO Imagination Center and other new restaurants.
"We are excited to have Splitsville coming on board," said Disney spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda. "It will be a great addition for our guests and a good fit for the lively area."
If all goes according to plan, the new Disney location could open this autumn.