Hall Of Fame Inductee

Tom England

Inducted into: Builder Division in 2015

Location: Oshawa

  • Builder

As the owner of the largest 5 pin bowling centre in Canada, Tom England is constantly looking ahead. Each day, despite the fact that his centre, NEB’s Fun World, is the leading innovator for the industry, Tom always feels he needs to do more.
Not bad for an individual born into the bowling business just as the industry was beginning to flourish. His father, Bruce, who was originally a newspaper pressman, joined Matt Kotelko in 1961 as owners of Motor City Bowl on Richmond Street in downtown Oshawa. Tom, born in 1957, also had an inborn entrepreneurial spirit like his father and at the age of 10, developed a 100 foot, four lane slot car track for his enjoyment. By 14, Tom was a disc jockey and after supplying music for the grade eight graduation at his local school, St. Christopher’s he would add two employees as his music business expanded.
However, it was his father’s bowling business that would be his future and Tom took over the main floor as Manager at Motor City Bowl in 1977. While learning the industry, Tom also opened the downstairs bar in the basement at Motor City and while doing so, he invented an automated beer and spirit dispenser that allowed alcohol sales to be sold on both upper floors, which had 16 lanes each. Bruce at the same time, took over a 24 lane centre in the Oshawa Shopping Centre and these lanes, managed by Stan Bishop, were located under the large grocery store at the south end of the complex. In addition, Bruce opened eight more lanes in the basement at Richmond Street, and the two centres became a 64 lane operation.
Using his vision, Bruce could see that Oshawa was expanding and the anticipated growth would be to the north. To that end, he purchased land on Wilson Road North and began to put together a plan to open one large bowling centre on the property. Sadly, Bruce passed away during this transition and Tom, along with his wife, Maria, took over the large centre. Tom and Maria were married in 1983 formed a great partnership and had two children, Jeff and Christie. While Tom managed the bowling centre, Maria handled the hospitality side of the business, along with the office duties of payroll and accounting for their 60 employees. Today, the centre can handle over 100 birthday parties on a weekend, or entertain groups as large as 1,000 for Christmas parties or company team building exercises.
Moreover, Tom understood the business side and knew that, to continue to grow, he had to maximize the amount of money spent by his customers. To meet this need, he first added a large games room and coupon redemption centre, followed by bumper cars and a rides and attractions area complete with go karts, to create the largest family entertainment centre in Canada.
Tom also realized that with so many bowlers passing through the centre each week, it was imperative that their experience be a very positive one. To that end, he has invented and introduced a large number of innovations that include high speed ball returns, convertible lanes that offer both 5 pin and 10 pin bowling, new foul line detectors, a new bumper system, and most recently, introduced 17 inch centers for the pin formation on the 5 pin side. As an added bonus, both Jeff and Christie are now of age to join the business. With a computer background Jeff, developed a new scoring system called Tri Vista, and Christie, who majored in human relations at Durham College, has joined her mother on the hospitality and office side of the business. In addition, both Jeff and Christie have married and their two children, Sophie and Jaxon, will soon be new bowlers.
Undoubtedly, Tom England and NEB’s Fun World are leaders of the industry. When a firm from the United States developed a “Kids Bowl Free” program in an effort to increase summer business, Tom participated and in 2010, was recognized as the number one bowling centre in Ontario and Canada. A year later, NEB’s won the award as the top centre in North America. Tom then proceeded to modify the program for his centre and renamed it, “Bowling Gives Back.” As a result, this past summer, 14,000 youth participated at NEB’s and 1,000 parents bought family passes to join their children on the lanes.
However, despite this leadership position, the growth process never stops. Not only does Tom feel that 5 pin bowling is the best entertainment value for the dollar in Canada, he also feels that bowling is “cool” and will gain popularity in the future. In preparation for this growth, he has several projects developing. Specifically, he will resurrect the Spare Time Express as a food and beverage cart and NEB Gardens, a two acre theme park, will be built on land just to the south of the centre.
Tom has also given back to the sport as a sponsor. He has supported both the Master Bowlers’ Association of Ontario (MBAO) and the Ontario 5 Pin Bowlers Association (O5PBA) through their tournament programs and supporting the annual O5PBA Bowling School. In recognition, the O5PBA named Tom and Maria as Proprietors of the Year in 2002 and they were also honoured by the Ontario government for their dedication to our sport in 2012. Civically, Tom received the Business Excellence Award from the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce in 2009.
To be successful in the industry today, your centre needs to be many things. For example, NEB’s is an excellent tournament location, and Tom and Maria were rewarded with a prolonged standing ovation at the banquet for the Canadian 5 Pin Bowlers‘ Association National Championships this past June. This expression of thanks was spontaneous and can only be earned by individuals who understand the effort needed to please not only the tournament bowler, but every bowler who walks through the doors at NEB’s Fun World.