HALL OF FAME
Location: 1610 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas NV 89119, USA.
We're doing another review of the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas?
Yes indeed, because during this year's trip to visit the Fun Expo show at the Las Vegas Convention Center we hopped over to the Hall of Fame to see how they were settling-in to their new location.
The museum was originally set up at 3330 E. Tropicana Avenue, but at the start of November 2009 they moved two miles nearer the strip to their new home at number 1610 on the same street.
This time the building is owned rather than rented and faces directly onto the road to give it improved visibility to passers-by.
Although the new museum building had been operating for three months when we made our visit, it still had an air of having just opened. The old location took some time to look completed, so this one will probably take the same.
The previous occupier of the new building was a tile and carpet store. The windows facing the street have been now been covered to reduce the light inside the Hall of Fame and the banner at the front is a temporary sign until something more permanent can be arranged. A friend described it as looking like a porn shop which, while rather unkind, is not entirely inaccurate.
There is free parking at the front, on the right side (looking from the front) and behind the building, while the parking lot is illuminated at night.
So, what's it like on the inside? Let's take a look.
Behind those covered windows (with the tile store's promotional signs still visible) at the front of the building is a long row of the newest and most popular machines which stretches almost the entire width of the frontage. All the recent Stern games are there, mixed with modern classics such as Medieval Madness, Monster Bash and Cactus Canyon.
Facing the front row are several change machines, vending machines and a 'welcome' sign. These form the ends of several rows of machines which run perpendicular to the front row and make up the bulk of the Hall of Fame's games.
At the time of our visit, Stern's newest game Big Buck Hunter had just arrived, complete with a Gary Stern signed translite. It sat at the end of another row, facing the front of the building.
The Pinball Hall of Fame had 176 machines set up during our visit. Here's the list:
*machine was either not working or depowered during our visit
The machines on display will change regularly, so this list should only be used as an indication of the breadth of machines they have available to play.
Entrance to the Hall of Fame is free with the machines all set on coin play. The costs of a game varies with the newer machines costing 75c, the intermediate ones set to 50c and the oldest costing just a quarter. That pricing scheme seemed reasonable and the machines we played were all set up well with sensible tilt sensitivity.
The range of machines provides a good representation of the development of pinball over the decades but stops short of going back to the earliest electro-mechanical or un-powered games. Nor does the Hall of Fame provide much in the way of historical information about the games, why they were chosen or what significance - if any - they have.
A select few do have a hand-written postcard with some relevant information but that's about as far as it goes. No, these games are here to be played and they play well. The cabinets may not be pristine but the playfields all appear well maintained and restored back to their original condition.
That's not to say there aren't some concessions to modern technology. A few games have LED lighting installed which is sometimes effective and gives an interesting twist, but sometimes seems out of place on a game from that era.
It's understandable how the reduced power consumption of LEDs (typically 1/5th the power used by an incandescent lamp) when multiplied by the number of machines would lead to significant savings on the electricity bill along, not forgetting the reduced heat generated and the consequent air conditioning required to counter it.
It's not just the lighting which has gone down the LED route. In some instances, displays too have been changed for their modern equivalents.
With all this talk of power, it's easy to under-estimate the work needed to power these machines but they all need power sockets and cabling to enable them to work. The building has an extensive power distribution system, feeding cables from the ceiling down to outlet strips which run the length of the machine rows.
A month after our visit, the Pinball Hall of Fame was targeted by thieves who, believe it or not, stole the incoming power cables. The price of copper has risen dramatically over recent years and cables such as these are becoming more and more attractive to thieves who strip them and sell the copper for scrap.
Thankfully it only took a few days for the damage to be repaired and the Hall of Fame to re-open but it shows the lengths criminals will go to.
Back to happier things, and one of the big attractions of the museum is the opportunity to play some unusual and rare pinballs. The Pinball Circus is one which is both unusual and rare and it sits alongside a Stern Orbitor 1.
We've obviously concentrated on the pinballs but there are other diversions for those not absorbed by the lure of the silver ball. A wide selection of classic video games fills one wall and others are scattered around the hall, along with various bingos, pitch & bat games, shooters and other novelties.
The new location has many outlets for food and drink a short drive away, but the Hall of Fame provides snacks, sodas and sweet treats for those with a quarter in their pocket, as long as they can avoid the temptation of the adjacent crane games.
Here's the list of the non-pinball machines at the Hall of Fame:
Inevitably, games will develop faults. Those which can be fixed in situ are repaired where that stand, while a repair area at the back of the hall deals with the more serious problems or those games coming in to join the collection.
We mentioned before how the Hall of Fame is very much still a work-in-progress and this is evinced by the left side of the hall where several machines sit unused.
At the back left of the hall, several tables are set up to sell records for just 50c each.
These areas will, presumably, eventually be home to more pinballs when time and resources allow. Although the new building is both significantly larger (the old building was 4,400 sq ft, the new one is 10,000 sq ft) and has more potential than the previous home, it only contained 22 more pinballs, although the number of non-pinball games had grown by around 50%.
You may have noticed the lack of visitors playing the games. Our visit took place on a Wednesday mid-afternoon when you would expect it to be relatively quiet. We returned the following Monday evening and the place was much busier and the change machines were doing a brisk trade which was reassuring to see.
Our look at the new premises was a mixture of excitement tinged with slight disappointment at not seeing some old favourites in the mix of games. The new building is most certainly a great improvement over the old location which was difficult to find and bursting at the seams but there's obviously quite some work to do in order to make the building feel like the Hall of Fame's natural home. The priority has been to get the museum open and the coins dropping which is perfectly understandable. The rough edges will be slowly filed down as more machines are set up, a permanent sign is installed, the front of the building is tidied up and perhaps a carpet fitted.
But all this requires both time and money. Time is the harder resource to donate, but money comes from visitors playing the games, buying the products on sale and spreading the word.
The Pinball Hall of Fame remains the world's largest publicly playable collection of pinball and although the appearance may be a little more rough and ready than before, it's only because the museum has traded the polish for a more secure and sustainable future.
That's something which is surely worthy of all our support.
The Pinball Hall of Fame is open 11am - 11pm Sunday to Thursday and 11am - Midnight on Friday and Saturday. It is quite easy to spot on Tropicana Avenue, even with the temporary sign, and it's almost opposite the Liberace Museum. The Hall of Fame website gives more details and directions.
My Trip to Las Vegas to Play Pinball, July 2010
Having been to Vegas many times in the past to try my hand at Lady Luck, I took a couple days off work to follow a pledge that I was to go and play pinball and not gamble once.
Well I did it.
My main goal was to visit the Pinball Hall of Fame (PHoF) on 1610 E. Tropicana. I had conversed several times with Tim, the owner, via e-mail and ended up staying down the street at the Hooters Casino near the north end of The Strip (Excalibur, MGM, New York, New York, Mandalay Bay, Tropicana).
A shuttle bus will pick you up on the south side of Tropicana and take you to the museum for just $2 (about a 10 minute ride from Hooters). The bus runs every ten minutes and you can take the bus back to your hotel on the north side of Tropicana at the end of the night.
You could also stay at the Motel 6 on Tropicana if you wish to stay in a non-casino hotel.
Overall my impression of the PHoF is great!!! It is not to be missed if you go to Vegas.
I give the owner, Tim, plenty of kudos for trying to keep 150+ games running everyday. He has a volunteer staff that help him tidy the place but it looks as if he is the only one working on the machines as needed.
I was impressed that after several hours there and all that heat from the pins and classic video games (including a multicade game) that it still was quite comfortable in there. The place is dark in some areas so it would be hard for 40+ folks (me) to read some of the placards but all the machines' lighting is in order so it makes for great non-glare playing.
There are over 150+ pins; I only saw about a dozen that were down or powered off. Many of the games, especially the old school titles, I have not ever seen at several of the shows I have been to. Some of the later Sterns are set on 5-ball mode (e.g., CSI, Ripley's).
The scores and monikers on the games indicate that the place has been frequented by many good players both local and remote. I did not ask if any of the high scores are ever reset. Tim mentioned they did hold a tournament there recently. There are only a couple of downsides that I saw. The games are all on a cement floor without any padding. Therefore, for those that like to nudge and play a little rougher, I found it easier to tilt some of the games. It is not very difficult to slide the game on the floor. I went there to have fun and play some titles that I hadn't played before.
But as I got serious and concentrated on some of my more favorite titles to register my name, it was tough to see a fairly decent high score in your face and yet, when I went to play, something wasn't working right so that it threw my game off (e.g. shots wouldn't register for Roof Chase on WhoDunnit, or the little flipper on Roadshow wasn't working strong enough to smack Red in the mouth.)
I gave this feedback to Tim and he went to work on them but I could see that he was really overwhelmed. Maybe you will get lucky and the game that you pick will be working 100% if you plan to aim for a high score. I guess I just have met with bad luck that day.
The place is highly appropriate for children as well. They have a soda machine there and you can have drinks by the machines if you are careful. I also saw some candy machines. There are a couple places for lunch within walking distance along Tropicana. (Good fish and chips at the Crown & Anchor British pub and restaurant, a couple blocks west of there).
If you are anxious to play pinball before 11am (when PHoF opens), you could stop at the Rum Runner Lounge at 1801 E. Tropicana with has a Gottlieb Surf n' Safari that was in pretty decent shape. Although it is a bar and they might have gambling; I wouldn't feel comfortable taking my kids there.
On the strip, there are six pins (FG, LOTR, POTC, NBA FB, SPP, SPRMN) located in the arcade at the Circus Circus casino. Although as I stood there alone for several hours playing and recording issues with the machines on my notebook to leave for the game vendor, I was reminded of talking in '09 with a person in the industry. As I sunk a ball into the chest on a POTC with K-E-Y lit (but not Heart Multiball) and the game started a premature multiball every time I did that, I was reminded of his words noting to his friend that here pinball has been reduced commercially to someone like me recording issues with the games even though my intents were only to help the game vendor and keep the pinballrebel database up to date so others know where to go to play pinball.
No wonder the industry went to pot on the commercial side.
All of the games need work. The Spider-Man was the best (the only thing I saw was the lock target did not light the left orbit lock shot) but the rest were playable; they just needed lots of work.
Machines that were in better shape were at Gameworks on The Strip just north of the MGM. They have three games, although the Viper Night Drivin' was down when I was there. They have South Park whose only flaw is that Kenny shots award Cartman (so there's no Kenny). Sopranos is the other game which worked fine except for a weak non retracting left flip at times and there was no boat drop target.
Gameworks requires use of a game card which you purchase and charge in the main area. The Gameworks staff seemed very interested and supportive of me, so I suspect the games will be fixed soon.
See the World Wide Pinball Locator at www.pinballrebel.com for a list of games and their status in Nevada (as well as other states, and the rest of the World). Feel free to add your own updates to the site.
© Pinball News 2010