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Sparians Brings Party to Bowling

Sparians (3) Bowling is a fun past time that, like golf, can present a challenge to even the most experienced bowlers. The “sport” seemed to fade as a casual means of entertainment for the masses through the 80’s and 90’s however, as the facilities offered little improvement to the experience. That all changed when Sparians opened in North Hills East late last year.

Offering a full bar, full service restaurant, private suites, projection TVs, and a midnight bowling experience at all hours, Sparians takes a bowling up a level. We began our evening with a meal in the restaurant. The menu offers sandwiches, a few entrees, burgers, and a large selection of appetizers. We ordered a burger, ribs, veggie wrap sandwich, homemade potato chips, and french fries. While nothing was noteworthy, all were adequate and despite Sparians’ reputation for being expensive, all were presented with reasonable value (~$13.60pp w/o alcohol).

Sparians (2) We sat in a C-shaped booth that featured an embedded touchscreen entertainment system. There were some fun games (Mouse Trap was particularly addictive), music videos on-demand, select YouTube videos and more. All of the content we experienced was edited to a PG level. (still can’t figure out why Katy Perry is naked in a candy land, but that’s beside the point). The speakers for the entertainment system are embedded in the headrests of the booth, so one’s selections don’t contribute to the overall cacophony in the dining area. While Sparians’ restaurant is not on par with North Hills’ best restaurants, it isn’t a bad offering at all – much better than the Fox & Hound. In addition to the touch-table offerings, Sparians’ diners get priority integration on the bowling ally’s waitlist. So Sparians benefits its diners similar to the way Goodnights Comedy Club does.

After a few text messages with the bowling ally’s waitlist manager, we smoothly transitioned into our gaming experience. Of course, all of the equipment is new, so the shoes were extremely comfortable and the lanes were well-treated. The lanes incorporate some new game management technology offering a different experience per bowler if desired (rails-up for specific bowlers, etc).  The lighting is dark, with spinning, flashing lights all over the place. At first it is an inviting experience, but ultimately becomes an over-stimulating distraction. I implore those with a seizure disorder to avoid this experience at all costs!

Sparians (1) Mounted on the walls above the pins are several projection TVs showing various sports channels. This ultimately becomes another flashing light novelty, though, as the constant rotation of bowlers provides interruption from focusing on the televised game. Therefore I do not recommend trying to bowl while watching an important game on TV.

With all of the flashing lights, TVs, loud music, and high bowling fees, I don’t foresee Sparians becoming a destination for serious bowlers. The lane was so dark that it was difficult to see markers. Back in the 70’s we had two facilities for serious roller skaters. When Sportsworld opened it offered a different experience than we had ever seen to the roller skating world, and Sparians reprises that role exactly. Sparians is strongest as a facility for parties. There were several office groups, condo associations, and birthday parties enjoying their time at Sparians. During our visit the suites were being used by a local speed-dating group.

While we had an excellent overall experience, my only complaint that really needs to be dressed is the unsanitary situation in the bowling ally. There was a group of 12 adjacent to us having a fun evening. They ordered nachos, wings, and pizzas, which serve a small party perfectly. As I watched these people eat wings, throw their bowling balls, and return to the food without interruption, it made me shudder to think about what is inside those finger holes, and how easy it is to get sick eating with dirty bowling ball hands. There were no sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer anywhere around. So, unfortunately, the fungi that are being controlled in the rental shoes are not getting attention in the balls. As with any bowling ally, one should avoid eating and wiping their eyes and nose, and wash their hands after bowling. This is simple CDC stuff that unfortunately does not jibe with the model at Sparians. When you think about Herpes virus living 4 hours or enteric and sore throat bacteria (i.e. S. Pyogenes) lasting 3 days on a dry surface, it casts a new light on eating with your hands while bowling.

This was my first time bowling in a couple of decades. Bowling was a tired experience, and the facilities were largely outdated and difficult to access until Sparians opened in North Hills. Its opening is a risky venture, but fills an entertainment need in North Hills extremely well. As the economy improves, I look forward to several years of success and even better days ahead for Sparians.

  • Brittany

    Thanks for the new, not so pleasant, thoughts that will go along with sticking my hand into a bowling ball ;).

    Does the dining area also have all the flashing lights, etc., that would cause you to recommend someone with seizure disorders avoiding?

  • Dana

    The dining area has TVs and music, but is well lit and not stressful at all. It kind of reminds me of the right side of Tobacco Road in Raleigh.

  • Chad

    I can’t stand Sparians… Not worth the money or the wait it takes to get a lane. Pleasant Valley AMF is so much better!

  • G

    Sparians is a terrible place. Horrible service and when you complain via email, they won’t respond to you, but they will put you on their mailing list. How classy.

  • https://ncsulilwolf.blogspot.com Lisa Jeffries

    A few friends and I tried to stop in for a visit one Saturday night and had such a bad experience at the front door that we promptly left and won’t be returning. I’ve heard the same from others. Not a good way to start, imho!

  • G

    Our waitress in the “bistro” area (if you have chicken fingers under your entrees, you should not be able to call yourself a bistro) couldn’t even tell one of my friends about one of the beers. She looked at him as if he asked her something in a foreign language and then gave an attitude and said, “I don’t drink beer so I don’t know what kind it is.” There was no offer to go find out any information about the beer. Another friend went up to the bowling desk before I had arrived and asked about the games/shoes and how it worked. The lady at the desk never responded, but instead, pushed a sign forward and pointed to it. She wasn’t on the phone, she wasn’t texting a friend, she just didn’t want to talk (although she was doing nothing else).
    I had to chase down waitstaff in the bowling area just to get a beer as well. I will not return and neither will anyone I was with. I’ve made sure to spread the word about their terrible customer service even though, on their webpage, they say they have impeccable service. I called them out on that as well with no response. I usually do not hope businesses fail, but when you cannot even respond to a complaint, I cannot wish you any success.

  • Unique1

    This dress code seems to be written for a particular group of people


  • gocanes

    I hate when they single out construction workers!
    What is wrong with the boots!!

    Construction boots – Not allowed!!!!!!!

  • David

    Haha, no “athletic wear”, except on game days, or “MC colors”.
    I find part of the dress code as well as other rules unecessary, as the place/pricing speaks for itself, and would not tend to attract a certain kind of clientele.
    With that said, even shadylanes, USA always appeared trouble-free for the family, even if the clientele was slightly rough at times.

  • Joe

    “The lighting is dark, with spinning, flashing lights all over the place.”

    Bowling? Bowling is about concentration and focus! I don’t forsee going to Sparians based on this review.

  • JoeOvies

    Went a few weeks back on a Saturday and arrived at 8pm. 3 hour wait. No thanks. But we did take the time to look around and it had a nice vibe.

    That being said, if you’re looking for a pure bowling experience, Sparian’s isn’t for you. Bowling is secondary to the pub food, beer and sports on TV.

    Go to Western Lanes (The Alley), where you can keep score on a piece of paper and drink PBR with other ITB hipsters.

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