This weekend, Modern Pinball NYC, a new destination for pinball enthusiasts in Manhattan, will celebrate its grand opening with a couple of tournaments, including a Saturday benefit for the Food Bank for New York City. Located on Third Avenue at 26th Street, the pinball machine retailer and interactive showroom is a brand-new business model for the arcade, which outside of amusement parks is a vanishing breed.
Instead of paying per game at Modern Pinball, players buy time– $7.50 for a half hour, $10 for an hour, and $20 to play all day. The bonus is that whatever you spend can be applied to the future purchase of a pinball machine. The 30 machines currently at Modern Pinball range from beautifully refurbished games from the 1990s like The Addams Family, Fun House and Dr Dude to new titles from Stern and Jersey Jack Pinball.
When ATZ stopped by on Tuesday evening, we met pinball veterans who’d already made the place part of their schedule and passersby of all ages stopping to check it out. “It’s great family entertainment,” says co-owner Steve Zahler, who has fond memories of growing up playing pinball in the 1970s, when the games were everywhere–restaurants, skating rinks and Main Street arcades.
“Not like nowadays, when they’re mostly in bars,” says Zahler. “That’s why I didn’t want alcohol to be part of this business because I want to help bring pinball back.” His daughter and son, who are 6 and 9, are turning out to be pinball whizzes, but they’re lucky to have several machines at home. Zahler wanted to open a place where kids could play pinball with their friends and family, just as as he did growing up. Birthday parties and special event packages are among Modern Pinball’s offerings.
Players are encouraged to ask the staff, who include high-ranking tournament players and pinball enthusiasts, for tips and strategies. We were wowed to find out Zahler is the No. 1 ranked player in New York and New Jersey, 14th in the country and 27th in the world out of 21,000 tournament players! Steve Epstein, his partner at Modern Pinball is the co-founder of both the International Flipper Pinball Assn. (IFPA) and Professional and Amateur Pinball Assn.(PAPA) with Roger Sharpe. “We share the same philosophy about business, pinball and promotion,” says Zahler. “We have the same deep passion for pinball.”
With Modern Pinball, Epstein, who was the owner/operator of the Broadway Arcade aka “The Pinball Capital of the World” until it closed in 1996, is back in business. The place was legendary and is much missed. According to a 1985 article from the Times, Lou Reed held his wedding reception at Broadway Arcade, and Broadway stars, cast members and members of orchestras ran in during breaks between performances and during intermissions. At Modern Pinball, we met one of those musicians, a French horn player named Michael, who was ecstatic to have a place to play again. “I haven’t played pinball in 15 years,” he said.
Modern Pinball NYC, 362 Third Avenue (between 26th & 27th Streets), New York, NY 10016. Phone 646 415-8440. Winter Hours: Open 7 days a week from 11AM to midnight, till 2AM on Thu, Fri and Sat.
Related posts on ATZ…
October 23, 2012: Playland Arcade Demolition Under Way in Coney Island
November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach
August 15, 2011: Games: Where You Can Play Vintage Pinball Year Round