Robert Lee Knight: the Business Behind Sunday Night Bowling

Robert Lee Knight, the manager of Peak Bowling Center, the ‘highest rated bowling alley in Colorado Springs’ is a 55-year-old native Coloradan. “I never asked to be manager,” he said as he began to speak of his successes in the world of bowling, “I just became one.” After four and a half years working at Classic Bowl, and many previous years managing and working at bowling alleys in Colorado, Knight began working at Peak Bowling center in 1998. “So my first Sunday here I was basically supposed to work the night shift,” he said. “I was going to be here till midnight, and once the league was over at 9, I noticed that from 9-11p.m. there was zero people, and so I closed the place early… couldn’t handle it, you know, with zero people here, so I went home and told my wife. She was like you’re home early! And I go, ‘next week there’s going to be dollar bowling, it’s gonna be dollar game dollar shoes,’ and she goes, ‘you know they’ll fire you,’ and I’m like, ‘well honey at least you know why I’m getting fired’” he laughed. “So the next week I did dollar bowling dollar shoes.” Knight credited three students from Colorado College who helped him get his Sunday nights started, “and then it built.” I later spoke to Damian, one of these CC grads who still makes an effort to bowl every Sunday from 9 p.m. on. “He still comes here,” Knight said. “He used to come every week, but now with his job he comes every once in a while, but I know he wears a size 8 shoes, I have them ready for him when he comes up.” Knight’s high regard for Damian extends towards the greater CC community. “Colorado College is pretty neat,” he said as he talked about the night he had over 100 CC students show. “They [the students] have always been really good to me, so I take good care of them.” Over the years, CC students have taken advantage of Knight’s Sunday night bowling as it continues to grow and succeed. “At first I started dollar shoes, dollar bowling from 9-midnight,” he said, “but now it goes until 1 in the morning! It’s so busy…the house is so full.” Dollar game, dollar shoes, however, were only the beginning for Knight. “After a while I noticed people were coming in large groups, so I started giving a free game for large groups…I’d give you a free game, you know, for appreciation.” But Knight didn’t stop there. “Then I thought, I’m gonna go outside the box a little further. You bring me a large group of 10 or more, the following Sunday you’re bowling for free. You get free shoes, free bowling.”

Photo by Phillip Engh

“Yeah I just started it, I didn’t ask for permission,” Knight said about his Sunday night additions to Peak bowling. The barkeep told Knight that it is easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and Knight said he liked that, “except that I don’t even ask for forgiveness. I’ve had other bowling centers that have asked me to work for them, and I’m like ‘Can I do this? No. Can I do this? No. Can I do this? No. Well, Peak Bowl doesn’t do that to me, they basically let me go outside the box, and the bosses don’t come around on Sundays, they just let me run it.” Knight is not only a successful and resourceful businessman, he is also an accomplished bowler. “I started when I was four years old,” he said. “My dad took me when I was four years old, and my first game was zero, but back then they hadn’t invented bumpers yet, so uh, I can use that for my defense. I was asked, are you gonna bowl again? And you know, most kids would say no I’m gonna go play air hockey or whatever. I said no I’m not gonna quit, I’m gonna shoot 300. I’ve had over 21 300s.” Knight has been bowling for 51 years now, and has extended his love for bowling beyond the sport itself. He talked about a figurine given to him by his mother. “[It’s] this little nut with a bowling pin, and it says ‘I’m a bowling nut.'[I] got a little carried away with that, and now I have a bowling museum with collections. I deal with over 45 countries. I’ve had people come from Australia to see the museum. I’ve been on television with it,” he said. To collect his museum artifacts, Knight said, “I go into a bowling center that’s like 200-300 years old. I get more excitement out of that than I do shooting a 300!” Knight talked about being in these basements for hours, digging out bowling balls that haven’t been seen or touched for over 100-200 years. “I go in the crawl spaces, and the owners will say there are two kinds of people that go in our basements: plumbers and crazy people,” he laughed.

To CC students, Knight said: “You’ve kept me here, you know. If the Sunday night would have stayed empty like it did 9 years ago, I would be somewhere else, but it’s full and CC is a big part of that. I love your sport. Colorado College has always been there, and I always say before you guys graduate, you know, plant a seed with your other CC students.” As it neared 9 p.m. and the music in the background grew louder, Knight left me with some final words, “Life is too short to be stressing while you’re bowling!”

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