Wall to wall pinball machines bedeck the floor of Pinballz Arcade. When I walked into the arcade, located at 8940 Research Blvd., it reminded me of a casino. The pinging of the bumpers and tapping of the flippers collided in a symphonic cacophony, while the flashing lights and displays kept a steady rhythm of score accumulation.
Then I noticed the differences. There wasn’t migraine inducing carpet. Kids and parents were actually spending time together and cheering each other on. I also saw no dejected business men in ill-fitting suits, reeking of stale cigarettes and scotch, shuffling off to the ATM again in order to win back their mortgage. Pinballz Aracde was tidy and everyone there had smiles on their faces.
From Hobby to Business
Owner Darren Spohn tells how it began: “I wanted a pinball machine for my garage. That machine led to another and another, and so on, until I decided to just open an arcade.” He originally planned on a 5,000 sq. ft. arcade. When Pinballz opened its doors in 2010, the space ended up being 13,000 sq. ft.
Over the years, Darren has amassed quite a collection of pinball machines. He rotates them in and out of the arcade in order to keep things fresh. “People like certain machines for certain reasons,” he explained. “Some like them because of nostalgic reasons, others prefer ones with a lot of rails, and still others like a machine that is fast.”
His most prized machine is a nefarious contraption called Medieval Madness. This sadistic pinball machine ravaged my supply of tokens and left me feeling completely inadequate as a man. I slunk off to the Nightmare on Elm Street machine. Freddy was kinder to me.
The age of the machines at Pinballz Arcade varies as well. One of the more popular machines is a fairly new AC/DC machine. I also played what seemed to be a pretty old KISS machine, and another based on The Who’s “Pinball Wizard.”
An arcade wouldn’t be an arcade without video games and ticket games. Like the pinball machines, Darren has outfitted the arcade with a mixture of classic and newer video games. Galaga makes an appearance, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter 4 and Mortal Combat. A row of skeeball machines line a wall, eager to dispense tickets to players young and old.
Staking a Claim in Austin Family Entertainment
Pinballz Arcade fills a needed gap in Austin’s entertainment world. It’s a place for parents and kids to have a good time together. Wherever I looked, people were together at the machines. Parents were teaching their kids the finer pinball techniques, and kids were encouraging their family members to play hard.
Pinballz Arcade is open late and frequently hosts family friendly events. Darren wants his space to be known as a place for parties, “I want people to come here for a good time. While we are technically a BYOB place (no hard alcohol), partygoers can rent a room and bring a keg for a nominal cork fee.” The BYOB policy and size makes Pinballz Arcade more accessible for families than places like Dave & Buster’s, and more intimate than somewhere like Main Event.
If you visit the arcade and see it as a place you want to regularly hang out, they offer memberships with tiered pricing. This is the breakdown:
- Basic: $30 per year
- Silver: $50 per year
- Gold: $100 per year
- Platinum: $200 per year
Each package has its own perks. For more details, visit Pinballz Arcade’s website. Membership isn’t a necessity and anyone can visit on Sunday-Thursday from 12 PM-12 AM or Friday-Saturday from 12 PM-2 AM (10 PM-2 AM is 18+).
Pinballz Arcade also buys and sells games and offers repair services for privately owned pinball machines. They also host leagues and tournaments. If you’re in need of something to do during the holiday season, the Austin Chronicle award winning arcade is hosting several events:
November 14, 2013: 3rd Annual Anniversary Event benefiting the Austin Humane Society. Dogs will be available for adoption.
December 6-8, 2013: Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA) Circuit event.
December 31, 2013: Pinballz Noon Year’s Eve Party (kids only) from 10 AM-1 PM.
December 31, 2013: Pinballz New Year’s Eve Party (adults only) starting at 7 PM.
In a nutshell, get down to Pinballz Arcade and sink some tokens into those machines. Just be wary of Medieval Madness.
Are you a pinball fan? What is your favorite machine?
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