FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Gold Mine and Tilt.
Two arcades that used to provide quarter-sucking games in Glenbrook Mall for those lucky enough to have spare change. Those days only exist for some in our rose-tinted glasses now.
But, the games that once gave them life are making a comeback in Fort Wayne.
At Summit City Brewerks a row of pinball machines roar to life, all screaming a symphony of whurs, buzzes, and dialogue lines from the characters featured on their side panels.
“We just started with one machine in Old Crown and they just started to multiply,” said Ryan Recker whose fingerprints are all over the Fort Wayne pinball revival.
As a kid, his uncle had a machine and he always craved going to his uncle’s house to get his hands on it. As an adult, he worked as an EMS who needed a hobby.
“My wife called me and said there was a pinball machine at an auction she was at,” he recounted. “I told her to bid whatever it took to buy it.”
Since that first machine, Recker and his pinball partner Kyle Alberda have turned their hobby into a vibrant scene in Fort Wayne.
They knew about pinball leagues in big cities like Chicago, and they wanted their own.
And what started as a handful of people having fun in Old Crown, crowding a singular machine has turned into a league called “504 Pinball” with multiple divisions and seasons.
Quickly outgrowing Old Crown’s back room they installed machines at Summit City Brewery and Hop River Brewing Company. With all of this growth, Recker and Alberda needed some extra hands, which caused fellow pinball fanatic Nick Squires to step in and help run their leagues.
Since expanding, leagues have run regularly, and on June 2 the 504 Pinball summer league started.
A group of players flocked to their machines to start racking up points for the season.
Each week the machines that are played change and at the end of the season, one winner’s name is put on the trophy. Squires is the three-time reigning champ, but he tells us that he thinks his reign is coming to an end.
“Newer players are just getting better and better,” Squires said.
But 504 Pinball isn’t the only organization fanning the flames of Fort Wayne’s pinball revival.
Wizard’s World opened in 2017 on 14613 Lima Road and has since become the biggest pinball arcade in Indiana, and one of the biggest in the nation.
Mike Burgess, also known as the Wizard, opened the location after being the sole employee of the original Wizard’s World location in the 80s.
They started in a room they now call “The Annex,” but have experienced so much success that they have expanded into a space that boasts 135 playable pinball machines.
They have the luxury to host regular tournaments, including some big ones. This Saturday, June 4, Wizard’s World will host their biggest tournament of the year, Wizard’s World War.
This is the fourth iteration of the tournament that is bringing over 100 players to the store. According to Burgess, 60 of the top 1,000 players will be there including the 4th and 9th best players in the nation.
No matter if you strive to be a wizard racking up high scores, or you hit the slippers for fun according to Burgess one thing is certain, “There really truly has been a resurgence.”