I first heard about the Pinball Hall of Fame from Yelp! about a month ago. When I heard that they had dozens of old pinball machines & old school video games, I knew I had to take my son there to check it out. The hall of fame is located on East Tropicana in a nondescript, older shopping mall. A small vinyl banner hangs above the entrance of the hall of fame, hardly what you would expect for a HOF!
When I walked into the building, I was struck by how dark the place was. It is a large single room with vaulted ceilings and not very well lit. A combination of sunlight and light from the pinball machines and video games supplement the few lights on the ceiling. It has an eerie feeling to it, more on this later.
The pinball machines are organized into rows and seem to be in date order with the oldest machines on the left side of the room. There are some machines from the 1950’s and earlier. The right side of the room is where the video games from the 1980’s are located. Donkey Kong, Paperboy, Tempest, Space Invaders, and Spy Hunter are among the many that I remember playing as a child….these were one of the main reasons for coming down here. Here’s the best thing about it…..they are only $.25 to play! Actually, most of the pinball machines and games in the joint are less than $1, which is refreshing to see.
Along the outer edge of left side of the room are old games & machines that appear to be in the process of being restored. It almost looks like an antique store or garage sale in that area….another creepy element to this place.
After a few laps around the room to orient myself, I was surprised that I couldn’t find a single employee. Does anyone work here? There are two change machines to convert your cash to coin, but I couldn’t find anyone who worked there. Maybe the old machines and 80’s video games were getting to me, but this place was creeping me out and I was beginning to feel as if I was in the Twilight Zone and was looking in the corners to see if Rod Serling was watching us in his black suit, ha!
After making change, my son and I split up to play around a little bit. There were some great pinball machines there, some that I haven’t seen in a very long time. They are in great condition and not once did I have a tilt or lose my money in the coin slot. As I was walking down the aisles I noticed a couple of very strange games. One game featured a dancing puppet clown that for $.25 you can control the clown while a song played….now this really creeped me out. Ever since I was a kid and first watched Poltergeist, I’ve hated toy clowns. This one looked like it was going to jump out of the machine. Another creepy looking game involved controlling a doll faced baseball player where you hit a ping pong ball, which was suppose to be a baseball over the fence for a score….seriously, I was convinced I was either the main character in a Creepshow story or I watched too many late night horror flicks in the 80’s. Most likely it was the latter.
Other cool games were the old school Chexx hockey game with Russia vs USA (remember?) and an air hockey game. We were there for over 2 hours and spent $20. You can’t beat that!
I still never found an employee. I will go back soon to investigate further. I suggest you give it a try if you’re in Vegas.
I frequent the hall of fame. It’s one of a kind here in LV. There are many people who hold this place dear. I think if you do a bit more research on this place you’ll like it even more despite your dislike of clowns. Fact is this place is homegrown and the story behind it is inspiring. Tim Arnold is the name of the man who has been collecting these games for years. He fixes the machines and does regular maintenance on them, purely because he enjoys doing it. You can find him there usually bent over an open pinball machine working on whatever needs to get fixed. Also, the money that goes into the machines is donated to charity. 😀
Joey – Thanks for the insight and info into the HOF. I love the place. Was wondering if someone was there….I couldn’t find anyone who looked like they work there. I wanted to talk with them and ask a few questions about the machines. I will look for Tim next time I visit….which will probably be sometime this week.
When I was driving taxi in Las Vegas, I picked up quite a few rides at the Pinball of Hall of Fame and took them back to the strip. Everybody likes it. There are regulars that go to the Pinball Hall of Fame every time they get stuck going to a convention in Las Vegas.
Vegas Taxi Driver – I enjoyed my visit to the Pinball HOF. I wish I knew that it existed sooner. Thanks for sharing the perspective from a Taxi Driver POV….it’s nice to know there are enthusiasts that visit the joint when they’re in town.
By now I hope you’ve done your homework. If not you can find out more through Facebook groups and two websites dedicated to the hall of fame. There are two websites for the site, and both seem to be rather current, although only one seems to be endorsed by the hall of fame, for political reasons unbeknown to me.
I first visited the HOF a few years ago, when it was in its old strip mall location further from the strip on Tropicana. It wasn’t nearly as big, had lower ceilings and the machines were packed in there rather tight. I’m not sure what the new location used to be, but other than the extra high ceilings in the new building, it’s nice to have a big open room with plenty of space.
Yeah, the simple banner is a bit understated, perhaps one day somebody will donate services or something else for a nicer sign that won’t take away from the overhead of operating the place. The fact that the building pays for itself, or at least the old building did, based on 25-cent to one dollar game plays, is impressive.
I have been fortunate to visit the HOF three times since it moved to its new location last November. It’s the best money I spend in Vegas. Most recently I was able to spend 2-1/2 hours there last week, and all I spent was $6 before my time ran out.
As you’re aware, the place exists because of Tim. I like to remind myself that if he had to run the HOF to make a living, he wouldn’t. The fact that he can afford to run it as a nonprofit and not derive an income from the place is why it exists. The fact that he puts in many, many hours to keep the machines running has to be a labor of love.
When I was there last week I noticed a couple of people that looked like employees. (They were wearing aprons of some sort and performing little chores around the building.) Chances are they were volunteers, as they rely on volunteers to help run the place, I have read. But no, it doesn’t have the presence of a staff like your local Gameworks did before the chain went belly up.
It’s not quite run like a “museum,” but the HOF is far from creepy, as you like to describe it. Old games creep you out? Yeah, I can respect that, but just because it’s not presented like an arm of the Smithsonian doesn’t make it inherently creepy.
The Fonz – I think my perspective of it being “Creepy” is a bit misunderstood. I spent well over 2 hours in the place and I can tell you that besides a workbench in the rear of the building near the bathroom, there was no sign of anyone who worked there. I was very curious about the place and was constantly looking for someone to talk to about the machines. The doll-faced baseball player and the clown puppet machine is definitely creepy in some circles….maybe not to you.
I read the comments on one Facebook page about my blog post that were very defensive…..I think you guys need to chill out a minute and realize that I actually advocate visiting the HOF and said I would return. Just because I think it’s “creepy” doesn’t make it less attractive.
Despite having lights, it is not well lit and the rest of the account of my visit was factual….I posted pics and or video of every part of my perspective….we can agree to disagree on that, but facts are facts…..dimly lit, unfinished walls/floors, banner as a sign…..there are other things I didn’t point out as well. Please don’t downplay the fact that I actually recommend people to check it out and that I had a blast there. Too many people are taking this place too seriously.