July 21

News : Pinball renaissance lights up Treasure Valley : Idaho Statesman

The Idaho Statesman has written an article about the pinball scene in Idaho.  The article also talks with the people from Spacebar Arcade and Grinkers Grand Palace.

kids at grinkers

The first pinball machine that got under Dan Costello’s skin was at Liquid Lounge in Downtown Boise. It was The Addams Family table, which became the best-selling table of all time after the machine’s release in 1992, the year after “The Addams Family” movie came out.

Along with the typical pinball trappings — flashing lights, chirps and jingles when the ball ricocheted around the blue and pink pins — the game incorporated hallmarks from the creepy family and its creepy mansion. The famous staircase served as the ball ramp, a standard for every table. Thing, the disembodied hand, slithered from hiding in the upper corner to deliver extra plays. Balls escaping the flippers fell to their doom through the open mouth of powder-white Uncle Fester.

That was eight or nine years ago, before Costello was good enough to play for a half hour on a single play. Before he spent five or six hours playing a single machine, chasing high scores. That obsession started with The Addams Family.

“That one really drove me crazy, really got me upset at the world,” said Costello, 41. “It’s a really challenging table, just infuriating at times. I loved it.”

Costello is part of a growing pinball cult in the Treasure Valley. Its acolytes gather in evenings or for tournaments at two bars catering to pinballers and vintage video game players, SpaceBar Arcade in Downtown Boise andGrinkers Grand Palace in Eagle.

Grinkers Grand Palace owner Steve Barbey said swelling pinball enthusiasm led him to add 1,750 square feet this summer and to add five pinball machines to his stable of nine.

The bar and restaurant, which is open to all ages, also has 154 nonpinball retro arcade games. But Barbey said the increasing number of serious pinball players contributes to Grinkers reaching capacity, forcing the business to turn away customers on busy nights.

Local pinballers track and contribute to a website and smartphone app, Pinball Map, where players update pinball table locations, movements and conditions across the nation. The app tracks 66 machines in 36 Treasure Valley locations.

A Facebook group, Treasure Valley Pinball, has 80 members.

Many Grinkers players jostle on the leader boards and compete in sporadic tournaments, which usually draw between 15 and 25 players.

“It’s a battle,” Barbey said. “When somebody’s score falls, the dethroned record holder will oftentimes come back day after day until they regain their position.”

Thanks to the Idaho Statesman and Zach Kyle for the article and pictures.