Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Night at the Disney Parks Blog Splitsville Meet-Up

                                                (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

If you have been to Downtown Disney in the last 4 months or so you might have noticed that a once empty building is now alive with sound, smells, and lots of activity. The building sits on Downtown Disney’s West Side and is across from the AMC theaters. Having formerly been occupied by Ride Makers, and the Virgin Megastore the building has a colorful and troubled past. There is no doubt that Disney has had a difficult time keeping a stable and permanent occupant in the building. But it looks like all of that may have changed.

The newest and by far the most hyped occupant is Splitsville. Billed as “luxury lanes” Splitsville is a high end bowling alley that serves gourmet food, top shelf drinks, and feels more like a European night club than your grandpas bowling alley. With 4 existing locations in Tampa, South Miami, Fredericksburg, VA, and Fairview, TX, the Downtown Disney venture is a sign of bigger and better things to come for this regional luxury bowling chain. With an energetic owner, and food that is out of this world, Splitsville flaunts a certain coolness factor that is unmatched by any other venue at Downtown Disney. I got a chance to personally check the new site out at a Disney Parks Blog event.

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The Disney Parks Blog is quickly growing into one of the most popular and visited Disney fan websites on the internet, and its because of events like this that keeps its popularity going strong. I attended the event with fellow WDW DIS-Cussion show host Brandon Glover. Before heading into Splitsville we hit the Raglan Road pub to grab a drink. On the way to Splitsville Brandon and I discussed the past of Downtown Disney and we pondered the future. Walking through the once lively and now largely abandoned Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney, Brandon and I quickly became somewhat pessimistic and forlorn about what might become of the entertainment district. Little did we know that in a few short hours how our minds would be changed.

                                                (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

Walking into Splitsville we checked in, got our wrist bands, our raffle ticket and our special ticket that proved our age had been checked for a special complimentary drink from the bar. The downstairs portion of the venue contains bowling lanes flanked by a retro Disney World mural, a chique bar, and a retail section featuring Splitsville Orlando specific merchandise. From hats, socks, sweaters, and more, the merchandise was reasonably priced, but design was lacking and left a lot to be desired. I would think that a place that exudes style and hipness, that the merchandise would be a bit more bold, colorful, and unique. And don’t get me wrong, that complaint, though valid, is a small gripe and did not do much to diminish my first impression of the place. After signing in and filling out the needed paperwork we headed up the escalator where the real party began.  

As we reached the upstairs section we were greeted by loud dance/party music that was emanating from a DJ perched on a raised platform behind one of the many lanes that occupy the second level. The large crowd for this event was corralled on the “dance floor”, and we were encouraged many times to cut loose, and dance. This was something I didn’t dare do, but a few brave bloggers and almost all of the Splitsville employees were more than willing to dance across the dance floor. After about 15 minutes of waiting for everyone to make it upstairs our attention was drawn to the DJ area where we heard from people from the Parks Blog and one of the Splitsville owners. We were encouraged, as always, to tweet and share our experience throughout the night. Disney really has managed to break the code and build a lot of hype with these types of events. Now, Brandon and I were there to bowl. Yes we were looking forward to the food and atmosphere, but we really looking forward to hitting the lanes. So when were waiting for the event to kick off we wandered over to the booth where rental shoes would be handed out after the welcomes and instructions were dashed out. I knew that there would be a long line and there was only one counter with a couple of employees handing out shoes. And while there was a sizable line at the desk, people seemed to be very patient with the staff, and no major problems were reported. Being a party of only two Brandon and I were told we would be put on a lane with another larger party. Looking forward to the chance to meet some new people and share some great stories, I was more than willing to share a lane. Well imagine my surprise when Brandon and I were escorted to a lane that was occupied by Lou Mongello and his party. I was beaming and looking forward to the opportunity to talk to Lou throughout the night and really pick his brain and discuss some of the issues I had with his show. I walked over to Lou and said, “Well since we are going to be sharing a lane, I should introduce myself. Im Chris Wakefield.” Lou threw a look my way that would scare the white off of a snowman. A few minutes later I noticed Lou and his party being escorted to a different lane all the way across the alley.

                                                (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

As the mega hit Gangum Style song was thumping in the background Brandon and I slipped on our bowling shoes and got ready for the night ahead. The first thing that someone will notice when stepping to the line to throw a ball is just how short the “pitch” is; the distance from the beginning of the lane to the foul line. While I didn’t whip out a measuring tape, I can tell you that the pitch was considerably shorter than your average lane. And while this might not be an issue for some bowlers, for anyone who is semi serious about the sport it can be a tad bit annoying and it takes you a few frames to adjust. The lanes are clean, even, well oiled, and very intimate. With four lanes per section and only 5 sections on the upper level, you really do feel close to your neighbors. Lane attendants were assigned one per every two lanes. They are there if you needed food, drinks, or if you had any technical problems with your lane. Our attendant was noticeably nervous about working the high profile event, but handled the pressure well and made sure Brandon and I had everything we needed to be comfortable.

Food was scattered about the upper level in forms of tables featuring sushi, pizza, and desserts. Servers were walking around the level with gourmet cheeseburgers and sliders. The sliders and burgers were nothing short of amazing! Top notch sliders that oozed bold flavor that were cooked to perfection. One table I spent a lot of time at was the pizza table. With 6 different kinds of pizza, this was one of the most popular spots of the night. The music throughout the night was steady, fast paced, and a little bit too loud for some people, but being so immersed in the food, bowling, and drinks, the music was one of the last things on my mind. I did have one alcoholic drink from the bar; a rum and coke. The drink was stiff and that’s how I like em! With a crowd of people at the bar, the bartenders did a really great job at keeping up with the amount of people and volume. 

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When it was all said and done the night was a massive success. Everyone walked out with a smile on their face. Door prizes were handed out and goodie bags were dished out as we exited. Once again, this was a huge event that was planned, and carried out with razor blade accuracy by the people at the Disney Parks Blog. The people from Splitsville should also be encouraged about their future at Downtown Disney. The food was amazing, the staff was energetic, and the atmosphere rivaled that of most modern day clubs I have been to. And while people will find some qualms about the high price of the evening, about $85 dollars for two people bowling two hours, not including food, I think that will fit in with the boutique, luxury experience that Disney fans have become accustomed to. Splitsville may run into some friction from families who want to spend a day bowling, as they may have priced themselves out of the market for an average middle class family, but there will be plenty of demand for the new addition to Downtown Disney. With only 30 lanes, reservations are strongly recommended.

If the price of bowling does scare you, fear not. You can always drop into Splitsville for a meal, dancing, or enjoy a drink from the patio on the second level. And as you sip on your stiff rum and coke while watching the throngs of people enjoying Downtown Disneys Westside, take some time to let the people at Splitsville, and Downtown Disney know how you enjoy this new addition. With 21 and over admission after midnight at Splitsville, this is a welcome addition to not only Downtown Disney, but the entire Walt Disney World Resort!    

                                                      (Photo by: Chris Wakefield)

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, so the lanes are not regulation length? I guess they are never trying to plan a PBA event there then. Also, surprised by Lou's reaction and them moving?


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