Date: 26th November 2015
Although the Dutch Pinball Museum had a 'soft launch' at the end of August, the official opening party took place this evening at the Museum's home in Rotterdam.
Museum owner Gerard Van de Sanden has been feverishly refurbishing the building and purchasing games so that he can realise his dream.
Tonight, former Dutch Finance Minister and current CEO of recently-floated ABN AMRO bank, Gerrit Zalm, was the special guest to officially declare the Museum open.
We arrived at the Museum around 3:30pm after a flight to Amsterdam Schiphol airport and a 25-minute train journey to Rotterdam Centraal station.
From there it was a 10-minute metro ride to Wilhelminaplein station followed by a 10-minute walk along the south bank of the Maas River to the Museum.
This part of Rotterdam is seeing plenty of construction, with new homes, offices and hotels going up alongside a number of historic buildings such as the New York Hotel.
Meanwhile, the area around the Museum retains much of its historical heritage. Even the building in which it lives preserves much from its former life as a light industrial warehouse.
While it may present a public face which is best described as 'shabby-chic', inside it's a very different matter.
With the launch party coming up, Pinball News spoke to Gerard about the Museum. We started by asking why he set it up in the first place. He told us,
Anyone outside the Netherlands might assume that the best place to be located to attract visitors would be the capital, Amsterdam. But Gerard says that's no longer the case.
The Museum is located in one of the units of a former dockside warehouse. It's a very solid, historical building which has been renovated and now houses a number of trendy artisan shops.
There's an electric bike store, a circus school, a gym, and the popular Fenix Food Factory, where boutique bakers, brewers, cheese-makers, butchers and fruit growers bring their wares and serve them up for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The Museum is a good fit for that area, according to Gerard.
When he first moved in, the space the Museum now occupies was little more than a concrete shell. Gerard told us how the transformation into the Museum took place.
Why, we wondered, did Gerard want to run a museum - an educational establishment - rather than taking the seemingly-easier and potentially more profitable route of opening an arcade or a barcade? He told us...
But Gerard doesn't consider himself a pinball historian. At least, not yet.
The choice of machines to go into the Museum is a mix of the historically significant, iconic titles which players might remember fondly, along with the very latest releases courtesy of Bertjan Postma of Ministry of Pinball, who is the distributor of Jersey Jack Pinball and sells games from all the pinball manufacturers. Bertjan has moved his showroom display of five or six brand new games into the Museum.
Gerard said that there were currently 45 machines in the Museum, but the aim is to have 50.
However, fill a room with 50 pinballs and no matter how interesting the stories and the historical background might be, people are going to want to play them. So the museum has two different modes of operation.
During the week the Museum is open for tours or private parties. These can be corporate events, birthday parties or organised tour groups. Gerard starts the events by telling his stories and introducing the guests to the machines and their history.
At the weekend the Museum operates more like an arcade. The same historical information is available on request, but the emphasis is very much on playing the games.
Entry to the Museum is charged according to the time spent there. Three types of ticket are available. A one hour ticket costs €6 ($6.40/£4.25), while entry for three hours is €10 ($10.65/£7.05). For longer stays, a full-day ticket is available for €16.
The great majority of the games are on free play but play on the very newest titles is restricted through the use of tokens, a number of which are included with each ticket. Gerard explained how it works.
We asked Gerard about the tie-up with Ministry of Pinball and how that works, with Bertjan providing the Museum with the very latest games. Has Ministry of Pinball moved into the Museum?
But these are the only machines for sale.
Work on the Museum is far from complete. While teaching pinball's history himself is a fun part of running the business, Gerard wants to expand that part further.
Almost every inch of the Museum's wall space is taken up with something pinball related. There's no respite, even when you visit the toilets.
There is a second upper floor above the reception area. This provides more seating as well as some spectacular views, and naturally the spiral staircase leading there also has a message to relate.
The Museum started to fill with invited guests and people from the media. Reporters and camera crews were soon milling around, taking pictures, interviewing guests, shooting video and recording the in-game sounds.
Soon after 5pm, Gerrit Zalm arrived. Gerrit is the longest-serving Finance Minister in Dutch political history and a pinball fan. He has an animated playing style, and all the media teams wanted shots of him playing an Indiana Jones machine.
The timing of his arrival was rather unfortunate for us - just as we were one shot away from starting Lost in the Zone on Twilight Zone. What to do? Abandon the game to get the picture, or carry on playing? Obviously we carried on, made the shot, played the mode, and got the Grand Champion and LITZ Champion scores, all while everyone's attention was focused 10 feet to our right. Ah well, no fame this time.
Having done his turn for the media, Gerrit went to the upstairs area with Gerard and Peter Homan - who has just released a new pinball DVD entitled Same Player Shoots Again (review coming soon) - to officially declare the Museum open.
Earlier in the week, Gerrit's bank - ABN Amro - has finally come out of government ownership and was floated on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. On that day Gerrit declared the start of trading by banging a gong at the Exchange. Tonight, he repeated that gesture to officially declare the Dutch Pinball Museum open.
Celebrations lasted into the night as we made our way back to the train station.
However, there was one more notable event to take place. Throughout the evening, a box had stood in the centre of the floor.
This was actually a new-in-box Williams Hurricane machine from 1991. It had remained in its box for 24 years, but tonight it was to be opened for the first time.
The evening provided a fitting launch for the Museum and generated plenty of media interest both about the Museum and about pinball in general.
Getting to the Dutch Pinball Museum is pretty easy. There are express trains from Amsterdam Centraal Station and Schiphol Airport, from where it only takes 25 minutes. Then it's four or five stops on the Metro (D Line southbound) to either Wilhelminaplein or Rijnhaven, and a ten minute walk.
Full details of the machines available, travel instructions, opening times and more are on the Dutch Pinball Museum website, although at the time of writing it is only in Dutch. Click here for a translated version.
© Pinball News 2015