Story dated September 29, 2004

Tragedy struck the Pennsylvania headquarters of the professional amateur pinball association a mere five days after their tournament at which Lyman Sheats was crowned champion.

Rain falling in the area from Hurricane Ivan resulted in flood water that rose from a few inches to over four feet in a couple of hours and continued rising after that. As a result, not only is the PAPA facility in a bad way but so are the 233 pinball games set up there for the recent (and future) tournaments.

This picture shows the high water mark on the walls.

As you can imagine, pinball machines standing in five feet of water (1.5m) are going to be badly damaged and that damage is not just from the water, but the sludge, grit and sewage mixed in with it.

The recent PAPA 7 tournament was the culmination of several years of effort to revive the organisation after their last championship in 1998. A 30,000 square feet building was acquired and the pinball games were installed together with several video games as a home for the organisation and its tournaments. This year saw the first of these at the new home and included a total prize fund of over $27,000 spread across six divisions.

Kevin Martin, the man behind the resurgence of PAPA and the owner of the games thinks they are beyond repair. "The water apparently crested overnight at approximately five feet inside the facility. That means every machine had water up on the backglass...
I doubt any single game will be restorable, but I do believe we'll be able to pull glass, backglasses, some boards, most of the plastics, and coin mechs."

He says that the mud coating the playfield glass is only the tip of the iceberg. "It's a thick slimy mixture of silt and sewage (yes, sewage, because there is a merged drainage system in Carnegie, as in most older townships). The quarter-inch you see sitting on the playfield glasses is matched by a quarter-inch sitting on the playfield itself, and a half-inch or more inside the cabinet of every machine." Asked about insurance, Kevin said "There is insurance but no flood insurance. The facility had never flooded in 100-plus years.... There won't be any insurance payoff."

Many offers of help and financial aid have been received but no decisions are being made about the future of the tournaments or attempting to salvage any games. Donation of parts or offers of discounts can be e-mailed to [email protected] as well as messages of support or assistance but financial contributions are not being accepted. In addition, web hosting or domains purchased through Pair Networks contribute directly to supporting PAPA.

Now the work is under way to recover what can be saved from the games. Although most of the playfields and cabinets are damaged from the water there is still much of value inside. "We've been cutting playfields out of games, pulling backglasses, washing some playfield glass, and salvaging a bunch of boards. On some games, we've just stripped playfield plastics rather than cutting out the playfield."

Kevin is now considering a sale of salvaged parts in a couple of weeks. "We'll have some backglasses, a lot of boards, assorted plastics, and about a hundred playfields. Mind you, the playfields are moldy and warped, but some of them could be worth a
decent amount for the parts. It's just not worth our time to strip them all."


Thanks to Kevin and his colleagues at PAPA for the pictures and help at this difficult time. We wish them all the very best in their efforts. You can see a full selection of pictures here.


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