Locations in this report:
Report by: Dan Marquardt
I saw Tim Arnold raising funds for a pinball museum at Chicago's Pinball Expo four or five years ago. I thought it would never happen because nothing that cool ever becomes a reality but Tim Arnold did open his museum a few years ago.
I read some articles on the museum and looked at the museum's website. After reading the website's list of pins they have operating I knew I had to make the trip from Chicago to Las Vegas to play a lot of my favorite pins that I used to play on location when they were new and mostly haven't seen since.
The purpose of a museum is for the public to learn about history. I have wanted to play pins made before 1974 which were before my time and the museum provides a rare opportunity to play a large variety of EM pins that haven't been on location for many decades.
I finally made it out to the PHoF museum in late April of 2009. Since all the vital information needed about the museum is already on their website, I am writing to share the observations I had about the museum during the 14 hours of quality time I put in there over two days.
The priority at the PHoF museum is having a huge selection of clean pins for the public to play. After getting some quarters and playing some games it became apparent that the games are basically all in top working order.
After two days of playing many of the pins, the only mechanical issues I experienced were two pins with a weak upper flipper. The playfield on virtually every game was in excellent condition and I did not see any dirt build up on any of them. It was a real treat to play so many games in like new condition.
A lot of the pin's bulbs have been converted to LED bulbs. This was a necessary move to keep electricity costs as low as possible.
A big part of playing a pin for me is the sound and all of the PHoF pins were set at a decent volume.
Besides all of the museum's classic pins, almost every Stern pin from the past decade is at the museum.
I couldn't help but notice that during the time I spent there the one game that seemed to always have someone playing it was Family Guy.
There is no reason to rent a car if you staying at a hotel on the main strip. There are shuttle buses from the airport to all the major hotels and there are buses, taxis and a monorail to get you around to all the sights of the Las Vegas strip.
At the south end of the main strip is Tropicana Ave. The PHoF museum is on Tropicana Ave. - about three miles east of the main strip. There is a city bus that travels east and west about every 20 minutes on Tropicana Ave. with a bus stop right in front of the museum at Tropicana and Pecos, and the fare is only $1.75 each way. There is a bar and grill next door to the museum where they had Samuel Adams on tap for only $2.00. They also have a decent food menu (the coconut shrimps there are delicious).
I talked to Tim Arnold at the museum. He said he is very cramped in his current location with no room for a workshop and half of his collection in storage. He told me that he has bought a building on Tropicana Ave. that is closer to the main strip and is larger than the current building which he rents, but he said he is getting endless red tape from the Las Vegas officials who are not allowing the new location to open.
Tim also mentioned that he operates the museum with no salary along with some volunteers who also do not receive any compensation. I noticed that Tim and his volunteers never stop repairing the pins. Tim said the repairs are never ending - as soon as he fixes something, there is another breakdown elsewhere.
I really appreciated all the work that went into making the museum a reality and all the work it takes keeping it going. I am confident Tim Arnold will overcome the current troubles he is having with city hall and have the new location open soon.
The museum's location, hours and current list of games can be found on their website: www.pinballmuseum.org.
Besides the museum, there were some other interesting pinball-related sights I saw during this trip.
In downtown Las Vegas, which is about two miles north of the main strip, two city blocks of Fremont Street is canopied. The inside of the canopy is a giant video screen. It stretches the entire two blocks and the width of the street and it is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
At the top of each hour until midnight they turn off the casino signs and play a custom music video of a rock band at high volume. One of my favorite bands - Kiss - was shown and if that wasn't cool enough to see, the video featured graphics from Bally's Kiss pin. It was quite an impressive sight to see two city blocks of Kiss pinball graphics above the downtown casinos.
A video of the Kiss show can be seen on YouTube under "Kiss Fremont Street Experience Show". The pinball segment starts about 3:55 into the video. Pinball machine sound effects can be heard along with the music. It is worth watching in the HQ mode on YouTube if you can.
Williams dumped pinball a decade ago to concentrate on their more profitable video slot machine line. The company is now called WMS and I took a look at some of the slot machines they manufacture that I saw in the Golden Nugget casino.
The WMS slot machines were very eye catching and they looked like they were very high quality, just like when they made pins.
The WMS games seemed to be very popular with the slot gamblers.
Some of the bigger hotels in Las Vegas have arcade rooms geared towards kids and I checked out a few of the arcades hoping to find some pins.
One had a beat up Family Guy with a dead score display. I stopped by Game Works on the main strip and they had four weak-title pins hidden behind a wall in a back corner. None of the games were even turned on. A dusty "under repair" sign was on top of one of the pin's playfield glass.
I also stopped at Circus Circus which has an impressive midway of carnival games. Their arcade has a wall of five recent Stern pins and a Bally Fast Break but they were all in such dismal condition I did not even bother to play any of them.
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