Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quite Possibly The Best Airport for Pinball

Being both a frequent traveler and a fan of pinball puts me in an interesting position. Logic would dictate that I have access to a wide variety of venues in which pinball machines should be present. Unfortunately, when I travel I don't have time to explore all of the local bars and bowling alleys for pinball.

However, on travel days I do spend a lot of time walking through airports, so I'm always on the lookout for arcades and any bar that might have a pinball machine. Most of the time I come up empty, but occasionally I am pleasantly surprised by what I find.

Such was the case when I flew out of the Minneapolis airport (MSP) about a year ago. At that time I found a small arcade that had three machines. I remember being impressed at finding three machines in an airport and I wished that I had more time before my flight.

Just recently I had a connection through the MSP and as soon as I landed I remembered the three pinball machines, and I knew that I had to play a little pinball while I was there. On my way to my departure gate I found a small arcade near gate G8 which had three machines (Elvis, NASCAR and Lord of the Rings). I was pretty sure that this wasn't the arcade that I had visited previously so I decided that a little investigation was warranted.

Checking the airport map wasn't helpful as arcades were listed. I made a stop at an information booth where I met met the very helpful Nancy who informed me of the locations of all of the arcades in the airport- all three of them!

It turns out that there were also arcades at F12 and one near C1. Thanks to a 2 1/2 hour layover I had time to visit all of the arcades, so I began my tour of MSP pinball. In total, I found 7 pinball machines distributed over 3 locations. The condition of the games varied from very playable to completely non-functioning. Below is a list of the games that I found along with their locations. The links will take you to the Internet Pinball Database for the machine.

Aurora Borealis - Start of the C gates.
Indiana Jones (2008)
Wheel of Fortune (2007)

Lucky Lindy's- Near Gate F 12
Spiderman (2007)
Pirates of the Caribbean (2006)

Unnamed Arcade- Near Gate F 8
Elvis (2004)
Lord of The Rings (2003)
NASCAR (2005)

All in all, the games weren't in the condition that I'd like them to be in, but most of them were playable. Pinball machines are maintenance intensive devices and they can be frustrating to play if not properly maintained. If the machines were a little better maintained, MSP could become a viable pinball destination. This may sound like a bit of an overstatement, but living in Pinball starved New England has given me a new outlook on this topic. Now I get really excited when I see more than one pinball machine in a single location.

I have contacted the vendor that maintains the machines (Theisen Vending Company) to let them know about the condition of their games. When booking flights in the future, I won't cringe when I see a long layover at MSP.

If you know of any airports that also have pinball machines, please let me know. The airport in Akron, Ohio had one pinball machine the last time I was there, but beyond that I don't know of any specific "pinball airports".

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1 comment:

  1. Great post! I, too, come from a pinball starved area (Charlotte, NC) and understand the excitement of finding pins in the "wild".

    Hancock Airport in Syracuse, NY had Addams Family (with some very liberal operator settings) and Lethal Weapon 3 a few yrs ago. You should be able to call their information desk in advance if you ever plan to be traveling through.

    Ill be traveling through MSP in a few days and will be eager to see if your pins are still there!