Pinball Hall of Fame – Interview with Tim Arnold

The Pinball Hall of Fame is one of the most famous pinball locations in the world.  It houses hundreds of pinball machines and arcade games from different eras and several rare games.  It is run by Tim Arnold, and is moving to the Las Vegas strip.

The new location will be 4915 S. Las Vegas Blvd.  It is on the south end of the strip, just south of Mandalay Bay and just north of the Fabulous Las Vegas sign.

Due to the pandemic, their income over the last 10-12 months has been significantly lower than expected, and they are asking for help from the pinball community to help complete this project.

Interview with Tim Arnold from the Pinball Hall of Fame

TWIP: For those not familiar with the Pinball Hall of Fame, can you share more about its history? The Pinball Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit organization – can you share more on how that works and why it is set up as a non profit?

Tim Arnold: The Pinball Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit pinball museum in Las Vegas. It started as an informal group of collectors that gathered in private homes to play and hang out and grew into a legal 501-3-c in 2006, when we moved a bunch of games into a storefront next to a movie theater. After 4 years in that location, we had enough money saved up to move down the street closer to the Strip into a building twice that size. Now we are in the process of moving again to a NEW 27,000 Sq. Ft building on the Strip. Being a not-for-profit means if we own the building, we don’t have to pay property taxes, sales taxes or permit fees. This allows us to offer FREE ADMISSION and FREE PARKING while keeping all our games operating on quarters. That makes the whole experience more like what it was back in the day and less like the swipe card places these days.

TWIP: You’ve said that income has been lower than expected in the last year due to COVID, can you share specifics about the gap in funding?

Tim Arnold: Our tax return for 2019 shows income of 1.2 million. I just finished the initial income statement for 2020 and we have dropped to 500,000. This includes 2 good months in 2020, January and February. On a day to day basis we are running 20 to 40 percent of where we were one year ago. Last summer we only had a couple days below 2000 dollars. Since we reopened at half capacity we have only hit 2000 a couple times. Most days are 500 or so. We have been taking the extra time not spent on waiting on customers and chained ourselves to the work bench, getting games ready to sell or put in the new location from a huge back-stock in the Hit Shed. At the start of the Pandemic, the media was saying it was going to be quick and painless, that things would be open again by fall. It didn’t work out that way.

Meanwhile we had committed to building the new place. We signed contracts with a builder for a 4.1 million dollar construction We now have drained almost all the money we had set aside. We are nearing the finish line without enough to get it done. We might be able to borrow more money, but this has become harder and more expensive as not a lot of lenders want to take a chance on anything in the amusement sector.

TWIP: Tell us more about the new location and what it would mean for the Pinball Hall of Fame to be located on the Las Vegas Strip?

Tim Arnold: The new location sits on some of the most productive retail space on Earth, The Las Vegas Strip. Right now it is a ghost town, as tourists and trade shows stay away. But long term it will come back and the wisdom of this move will become apparent. Here are some facts on the dirt we bought. We are withing walking distance of 14 of the 15 largest hotels IN THE WORLD! We are across the street from the 4th largest Convention Center in the world and just a quick couple of miles from the Biggest. The 5th most visited Amusement park in the America is right up the street. The new Raiders stadium is a block away. Elon Musk is building an underground transportation system that is planned to service all of the Strip, The Convention Center, Airport and Downtown seamlessly. The famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign, another free attraction, is right in front of our door. We are at the bottom of the first freeway off-ramp coming in from California. Our new building is visible for a mile because of the giant word PINBALL on the front. Nobody will drive by and wonder what’s inside! Traffic on the South part of the Strip is still easy to drive thru, so the locals will come because there is no jam up, unlike the Northern part of the Strip where all the Hotels are. We looked at a lot of other locations in the past few years and kept coming back to this one because of LOCATION, LOCATION and LOCATION!

TWIP: With the larger size of the new location, what can people expect as far as the layout and attractions?

Tim Arnold: We set up this project as a not-for-profit because to try and make money as a for profit would have been impossible. Without alcohol or food sales, there is no way to overcome all the expenses involved with a coin worth only 25 cents. Many have tried, most have failed. By taking the other path and keeping our costs low and focusing only on doing 1 or 2 things, we have done well. One of the main goals we have with all the new space we are getting is feature more OLD GAMES. The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s! Not having to answer to the demands of CAPITAL OWNERS, we are free to concentrate on putting on the best show we can.

The layout of the new place will be a lot like the layout of the old place. Long rows of pinball machines back to back with video games and crane machines along the outside walls. The aisle ways will be wider, and the whole center will be very wide, what we call Grand Avenue. In this space we will feature history displays that can be removed when we need to convert to tournament or private event space. Best of all, MORE RESTROOMS! No waiting to take a squirt!

TWIP: If you reach your goal on GoFundMe, will that guarantee that the new Pinball Hall of Fame will be completed?

Tim Arnold: Make no mistake. We will get this project done. We are in too deep to not finish now. The GoFundMe was our way of reaching a large number of people who might want to help and making it easy for them to contribute. Up to this point, we have been able to build our dreams on our own labor. But, Covid has changed things, and we need some help getting across the finish line. Also, keep in mind that the sooner we can get open without more debt, the sooner we can get back to the other part of our mission, giving money to local social service charities. Your help now makes more help for those in need in the near future.

TWIP: When do you plan for the Pinball Hall of Fame on the Las Vegas Strip to officially open?

Tim Arnold: As with any large building project, there are delays and changes right up to the last day. We are on time or a little behind at this point. The Building Department says we can start to bring in equipment when the construction is “substantially complete”, This might happen as soon as the end of January. A full “Certificate of Occupancy” will take longer and involves more last-minute changes to satisfy fire and building codes. The most important thing is that Porange and the Yard Cats have a place to romp and play!

Once we open, it will be the start of a long period of time when we will be running the bugs out of all the games. Our Staff is much larger now than when we last moved, and training has been ongoing for the last couple of years to bring skill levels up.

If in the past your readers have had fun at the PHOF – Now is the time to help us out with a donation:

All contributions are tax deductible. If you want to make a large contribution or a donation by check, contact us directly at [email protected].

Disclaimer: Any articles, interviews, or mentions of pinball manufacturers or pinball products is NOT an endorsement.

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