Bob Ujvari learned to bowl at age 8 when his brother set up plastic pins in their basement in Buffalo, New York.
He took to the sport, competed in the junior program and then in college and in professional tournaments. About 30 years ago he started working in bowling centers and learned the business from the ground up, starting with fixing the machines and oiling the lanes.
Ujvari became the business manager at Redstone Lanes on Jan. 22 after more than six years of managing Air Force bowling centers. That included the past year at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and the previous five and a half years in Okinawa, Japan.
"I was really looking forward to this," he said.
After two months here, Ujvari said he's eager to build various programs. He started a Saturday night special called "Rock-n-Bowl at Redstone" on Feb. 21, geared toward the younger generation starting to work at the Arsenal. Customers can rent a lane for three hours, from 8-11 p.m. Saturday, for $20. That's for up to six people; and they just pay for their shoes on top of that. As a result, there was a waiting list March 7 and 14. The special will continue through April. After that the summertime 50-50 special -- 50 games for 50 cents apiece -- will be offered from May through the Labor Day weekend. Ujvari plans to bring back the "Rock-n-Bowl at Redstone" special around September. He said he is also trying to make Sunday more of a family oriented day.
Today starts the new price packages for the four-lane party room. For Monday through Thursday, parties with up to 20 guests can reserve the party room for two hours for $120; while parties with 21-40 guests can reserve it for $200. The Friday, Saturday and Sunday, parties up to 20 can reserve the room for $160; while parties with 21-40 guests can reserve it for $240.
"I think that'll appeal to a lot more people now," Ujvari said. "My goal is to get us to 350 parties a year. Now we're at 160 to 170 parties a year."
Ujvari, 50, was excited about joining the relatively new Redstone Lanes, which opened a decade ago. "I was not surprised at how well our staff takes care of customers. We have a great customer-service friendly oriented staff," he said. He was also pleased at the accessibility to his boss, Ed Nunn, business operations officer for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
"He's very engaged with what he can do to help us out," Ujvari said. "I think that's something at our level we really need. His interaction with a lot of the different facilities is a huge bonus here."
In Buffalo, Ujvari grew up watching the professional bowlers tour on ABC television's "Wide World of Sports" every Saturday afternoon. He would bowl in the junior program that morning, rush home for lunch and then watch the pro bowlers on television. "Probably my idol growing up was Marshall Holman," he said. "He's in the PBA (Professional Bowlers Tour) hall of fame now."
Ujvari would bowl in leagues with fellow Buffalo native Tom Baker, who was inducted in the PBA hall of fame in 1999. He has also bowled against big-name professionals like Pete Weber, Bob Learn, Jack Jurek and Jason Couch.
In 1990, bowling with the Brunswick Rhino Pro team, he won three American Bowling Congress eagles. Ujvari was only the ninth person in the history of the national bowling tournament to accomplish this feat. The Rhinos won the inaugural World Team Challenge in 1990.
He bowled for a powerhouse Erie Community College team in 1983-85 where he was an All-American both years. "We were ranked in the top five in the nation as a community college. For a two-year school, that was a tremendous accomplishment," said Ujvari, who earned an associate degree in business/bowling management. The New York school finished sixth in the nation one year and 10th the next.
But shoulder surgeries and an impending second knee surgery have sidelined his bowling, which he hopes to resume within a year or two.
He met his wife, Arlene, a native Filipino, in Okinawa. He has twin daughters from a previous marriage, Jessica and Jamie, 20, who are scholarship softball players for the University of Central Florida, ranked in the top 20 nationally. Jamie is the pitcher and Jessica the catcher; and both are juniors majoring in hospitality management. His stepdaughter, Marin Shiroma, 12, resides in Okinawa. Ujvari enjoys tinkering with home theater electronics and listening to music.
"I'm really excited to be here," he said. "I think we can do some great things to really support the mission here at Redstone Arsenal. And hopefully we can create an environment that would be greatly received by the public."
Redstone Lanes, building 3424 on Hercules Road, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1-8 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is 876-6634.