Location: 111 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250, USA
Jacksonville is located in the northeast corner of Florida, with Jacksonville Beach being one of the Atlantic sea-fronts towns renowned for surfing and swimming. Sneakers Sports Grille is just a short walk from the sands, on the corner of Beach Blvd. and 1st Street which runs the length of the beach
Sneakers is a sports bar, and a large one at that, with giant projector screens looming above the many tables and booths, and a replica race car mounted on the front wall.
The bar sits in the centre of the room, with seating all round and more TVs showing various sports channels.
Craft beer devotees are also catered for, with fourteen taps bolstering the usual lagers available elsewhere at the bar.
Our reason for visiting Sneakers had less to do with the drinks selection or the sports being shown on TV, and more because there was a month-long pinball tournament being held on the four machines there.
The four machines at Sneakers when we visited were NASCAR, Dr. Dude, The Party Zone and The Sopranos. The first three were in a bank against the back wall, while The Sopranos was on the left, next to an emergency exit.
NASCAR, Dr. Dude and The Party Zone all looked good and played well. They had been LED-ed making them appear brighter but colder than usual. The Sopranos had a few issues which impacted on gameplay, such as the safe being broken and the right ramp not registering, but was otherwise clean and playable.
The tournament involved registering your best score on each machine with the bar tender, or submitting a photograph to the accompanying Facebook group. The four top-ranked players would then win prizes.
All four pinballs were priced at £0.50 a game, which is more than reasonable. Change was available from a machine just around the corner in an area for skill games such as cranes and other prize dispensers.
We visited Sneakers on a Tuesday afternoon in October when the weather was warm but rainy. Consequently there were not many other patrons there, either inside watching the sports or outside in the covered patio area overlooking the street.
However, it's easy to imagine the place being overrun during the summer months, at weekends, and during key sporting events. Sports memorabilia lines the walls of the bar and the entrance. Much of it is also for sale if you are interested.
Even without many customers, Sneakers was an impressive-looking operation. The sheer size, the number of seats, and the quantity of TVs and projectors shows the ambitious scale of the business. Both the bar tender and the owner appeared friendly and welcoming, inviting us to take part in the tournament once we enquired about their pinballs.
While the pinballs are somewhat tucked-away in the back, they have the space for both players and spectators without interfering with customers for the bar, restaurant or pool tables.
It was certainly worth our three-hour drive from Orlando to visit. Check out the 904 Pinball Zine on Facebook to find out about their current and future tournaments, and maybe you too could win a prize package.
© Pinball News 2015