Pinball arcade opens in Tucson

2013-09-05T00:00:00Z Pinball arcade opens in TucsonBy Angela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

AC/DC, Addams Family and Indiana Jones are about as different as they come, but they do have at least one thing in common.

They are all among the 29 games at D&D Pinball, which opened Wednesday at 331 E. Seventh St.

Tucsonan Gary Dillahunty, who co-owns the new pinball arcade with his wife, Jane Decker, said he used to play pinball at miniature golf course Green Acres as a kid. “I always loved it,” he said.

Green Acres closed in the mid-’70s, and as time went by, good pinball machines were few and far between, he said.

The couple were reintroduced to the classic game a few years ago, when they went to the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

“It was just incredible,” Dillahunty said. “There were 175 to 200 machines. We just got totally enlightened with pinball again.”

The duo decided they had to have a machine, or pin, in pinball speak. “So we found one … and next thing you know we had two.”

It became less about their own love of pinball and more about watching others have fun when they had friends over. “The people that came over enjoyed them so much,” Decker said. “We thought it was a shame to just have it at our house,” so they were inspired to open a pinball arcade.

Finding machines can be a challenge. It’s not like walking into a store and buying one, Decker said.

“It’s definitely a hunt,” Dillahunty said. “But once we got the first two machines, it opened this little crack … and there’s this incredible pinball subculture out there.” The couple made connections by checking out pinball websites with forums of enthusiasts chatting with one another.

Pins were purchased in Tucson, Phoenix and as far away as Idaho, Dillahunty said. “If you find a good one, it’s gone real quick.”

Games don’t come cheap. The older pins start at about $400, Dillahunty said. And the newer ones can cost more than $13,000. D&D purchased its games from private collectors.

Picking a location came about naturally, since Dillahunty is a Tucson native and Decker has lived here for most of her life. The couple said they like to support local businesses.

“Ninety-five percent of the time we go out, we go to Fourth Avenue,” Dillahunty said. “So when it came to opening our own business, it was a natural thing.”

The couple leased a garage on the northwest corner of North Fourth Avenue and East Seventh Street. “We didn’t want to be in any old strip mall,” Decker said. “We wanted a place with character.”

From the outside, the 1,600-square-foot building seems like an ordinary garage. But when the door is open, it is anything but.

Twenty-nine pinball machines are flanked by colorful murals painted by University of Arizona art student Nicolas Sanchez on the west wall, and distressed bricks on the east. It doesn’t feel like the typical arcade. It’s more like going to a friend’s garage or basement.

Since Decker and Dillahunty both have full-time jobs at Raytheon, the arcade will be open only on weekends to start. Customers can stop by and play for a quarter to 75 cents per game.

The couple hopes to at least break even with the pinball arcade, but said it’s more a labor of love than a get-rich business. “We want to get people re-engaged to play pinball,” Dillahunty said. “Or introduce it to people who have never played it.”

If there is extra money after paying bills and maintaining the machines, the couple plan to adopt a local charity each month to donate money to. “We want to give back,” Dillahunty said.

D&D Pinball plans to host tournaments in the future. Dillahunty said tournaments are a big thing for pinball, and that almost any month in the U.S. there is a pinball expo.

“Whatever we can do to promote pinball,” Dillahunty said.

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at apitteng@azstarnet.com or 573-4137.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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