International Plaza eyes two-story bowling alley and movie theater expansion

A rendering produced by Bala Consulting Services shows where the bowling alley and cinema would go at International Plaza, taking the place of 329 existing parking spaces near Nordstrom.
A rendering produced by Bala Consulting Services shows where the bowling alley and cinema would go at International Plaza, taking the place of 329 existing parking spaces near Nordstrom.
Published May 11, 2019

TAMPA — Some classic entertainment could be headed to International Plaza: The mall's owners are considering a new movie theater and two-story bowling alley.

Plans filed with the City of Tampa this week call for a 39,000-square-foot cinema with 653 seats and a 31,000-square-foot bowling alley with 14 lanes. No vendor is listed in documents.

"International Plaza confirms that an expansion plan has been submitted to the City," the plaza's general manager Gary Malfroid said in a statement. "We will share more specific details with the community in due course."

In general, the shift in retail to online and away from traditional department stores has hurt malls. It's likely the plaza is looking for new entertainment options to keep it relevant and attractive to customers.

But is a movie theater bowling alley the way to go?

Separately, both industries have struggled to keep up with consumers' changing tastes.

Florida-based Frank Entertainment Group, which operates combo bowling alley movie theaters, has been in and out of bankruptcy court since last fall. It operates movie and entertainment venues under the names Frank Theatres, CineBowl & Grille, and Revolutions, an upscale bowling alley and bar concept.

The nearest Cinebowl is in Delray Beach, which has 16 bowling lanes, movie theaters, a bar and restaurant.

But in recent months, Frank has shuttered several locations: Revolutions in West Palm Beach and Pennsylvania, and a traditional movie theater in New Jersey.

As the sport of bowling has become less popular, alleys have had to transform into entertainment complexes. They're upscale renditions of their former selves with the aesthetics and drink specials of a night club — and, in some cases, the addition of a movie theater.

Not everyone is struggling, though. New York chain Bowlero just opened its fifth Florida location last month in Bradenton. Bowlero boasts black-light bowling and upscale food and drink specials — clearly eyeing a wealthy customer.

It's the same type of client International Plaza relies upon.

Read more: WestShore Plaza owners buy $4.3 million in land for mixed-use development plan

The plaza property owners, the Taubman Company, had to file the new business plans with the City of Tampa because the construction calls for the removal of a few hundred parking spots. The city has to approve that reduction and ensure it wouldn't leave shoppers without enough spots.

The plaza hired Bala Consultant Services to run a parking analysis, which found losing the 329 spots wouldn't pose a problem. During the peak holiday shopping day last year, the mall had about 18 percent of its spots unoccupied.

The consultant argues in its report that the formula the city uses to calculate the mall's parking puts the required spots too high.

It says a new total of 5,669 would still be enough in the future. The kind of shoppers seeking the upscale shopping offered at International plaza "generate fewer trips and require lower parking needs than similar size shopping centers," Bala wrote in its report.

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Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.