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Pinball Arcade Opens In Tallahassee

Rob McDole with some of the arcade's newer pinball machines.
Nick Evans

A new all-you-can-play pinball arcade is opening in Tallahassee.  Pinball wizards can flex their flippers starting Friday.

Rob McDole is putting the finishing touches on Flippin Great, the new pinball parlor he’s opening in the Railroad Square Art Park. 

Some of the arcade's older machines, including Joker Poker (far left).
Credit Nick Evans
Some of the arcade's older machines, including Joker Poker (far left).

“This is Joker Poker,” he says, showing off one the arcades older machines.  “This is a Gottlieb game that was done in the late seventies, right at the turn of when they used to make electromechanical games to solid state games.”

Newer solid state games use printed circuit boards like the ones in a computer, whereas earlier machines rely on magnets, electrical switches and springs.   McDole explains Gottlieb made two versions of the poker-themed game—he’s got the solid state version. 

Next McDole turns to a car-themed game he’s repairing called High Speed.  He points out the circuit boards controlling lights, sounds and scores inside the back-box, before lifting up the playing surface as one full piece.

“Once you look underneath the playfield,” he says, as balls roll to the back of the machine, “This is where really all the magic happens.”

The underside of the High Speed playfield.
Credit Nick Evans
The underside of the High Speed playfield.

Underneath is an orderly tangle of color-coded wires zip-tied together and strung along the underside of the playfield. 

“You’ll see all kinds of transistors and capacitors,” McDole says, “and all kinds of electrical work.  Each one of these games represent a really huge amount of electrical engineering.”

But as with most complicated instruments, sometimes things go wrong.

“I think this one actually caught on fire before we got it,” he says with a smile.  “I think this solenoid up here in the top corner—this knocker actually burst into flames at some point, because this is all sooty and we haven’t had a chance to clean it out yet.”

McDole says he’s aiming to have 20 or more pinball games running at a time spanning multiple eras from vintage to modern.  He’ll have a handful of arcade games as well.  Flippin’ Great opens its doors just in time for first Fridays at Railroad Square Art Park.  

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.