PINBALL HALL OF FAME
3330 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas, NV, 89121, USA.
After years of fund raising and planning, Tim Arnold's vision of a museum dedicated to pinball finally came true earlier this year when the curiously-named Pinball Hall Of Fame tentatively opened its doors and became a destination for pinball fans around the globe.
It is fitting that the large collection of games that makes up the Pinball Hall Of Fame should be in Las Vegas, the city almost devoted to excess. But it is also ironic that in a city built around making large sums of money, the Pinball Hall Of Fame is a non-profit enterprise. While thousands change hands on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card mere blocks away, this venture is all about the quarters through the coin slots and helping good causes.
This isn't quite the establishment envisaged at the start. The original plan was to buy a plot of land and erect a building to house the museum using a fund built up from sales of This Old Pinball tapes, raffle tickets and restored games along with donations and sales of parts. Over the years the fund grew to a third of a million dollars with the eventual target of one million dollars.
In the intervening time, though, land prices have shot up in Las Vegas at a much faster rate than the building fund could grow, forcing a rethink.
With purchasing becoming increasingly unlikely, the possibility of renting a suitable building became more attractive. While land prices had risen, rental costs had remained relatively static.
So the Pinball Hall Of Fame took over the rental of five store units next to the Tropicana Cinema in October of 2005 and began developing the 4400 square feet site to turn it into the home for the collection of games destined to make up the museum's exhibits.
That development is not yet complete, so there has been a soft launch to get visitors inside and the machines earning but without any big announcement. The understated nature of the Hall Of Fame means it's quite tricky to find, even when you know where it ought to be. The first sign was going up (on the glass windows) during this visit but there was no street sign or anything that could be spotted from a distance yet.
Behind the glass frontage is the first row of pinball games. This is effectively the shop window and is intended to draw in passers-by or those coming out of the cinema and other near-by stores.
As you can see, they're mainly electromechanical games, so the appeal is to those who remember them from their youth and they won't intimidate the more timid or unsure potential customers.
When you enter the Hall Of Fame, the wow factor is just what you hope for. You've discovered something very special - an amazing collection of 155 classic pinball games, not only to look at but to actually play.
And there's no doubt the games are all very nicely restored. They've got clean rubbers and playfields with strong flippers and bright lighting - just the way they should be. The chrome is gleaming and even the legs are spotless. If the time has been spent on restoring the games rather than promoting of the venue, it's been time well spent.
A few have handwritten postcards on the backglass detailing some interesting feature, personal opinion or historical tidbit about the game. This is something that needs to be extended to all the games and more professionally presented. All the games have a story to tell and as a museum, there should be information about all the exhibits on display.
Some of the rows form a series of related games such as 1960s Ballys or Gottlieb solid state machines. It further enhances the impact of seeing so many games in a row when you realise they are all part of a connected series.
Here are the games listed by row on 29th March 2006.
Front Row (window):
Entrance to the Hall Of Fame is free but all 155 of the pinball games are pay-to-play. The older machines cost 25c per game while the newer ones are 50c. All machines take cash and there are a few change machines by the window when you run out of quarters.
You may have noticed the fifteen video games in the list above. These classic games help keep those not interested in pinball busy and provide a diversion for players with tired flipper fingers and like the pinballs are pay-to-play. There are also several crane games on the back wall offering prizes of stuffed Simpsons or Family Guy dolls and a small number of pitch and bat or gun games mixed in with the pinballs.
If all the game play makes you thirsty or peckish, there is a drink can dispenser offering soda and water at very reasonable prices along with some candy machines. All the money raised by these goes to the local Salvation Army which means you can enjoy those M&Ms all the more.
The Pinball Hall Of Fame is still a work-in-progress but it's still an impressive sight and a testament to all the hard work put in by the organisers and those running it today.
There's plenty of scope to add more value to the collection through education about the games themselves. Besides the information cards, visitors could take written "guided tours" - lists of games to play designed to show the development of a particular feature or how certain aspects of pinball evolved over time. The tours could be designed by pinball personalities who write the accompanying tour notes.
But the collection itself - seeing all those rows of crisp, bright, shining machines is what makes the visit worthwhile. Tim told me during the visit how the Hall Of Fame at times was already paying for itself, far ahead of the expected schedule which bodes well for the long term financial viability.
Extra promotion will be needed and it's good to see that has begun with a tie-in with Twin Galaxies taking place at the end of April 2006. See our Diary section for details of that.
The Pinball Hall Of Fame is on the corner of Tropicana and Pecos and is open every day from 11am to 11pm. Look for the Tropicana Cinema sign and make sure you've got lots of time and money to spend.
© Pinball News 2006